According to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish practice of metzitzah b'peh, rabbis orally suck the baby's penis after circumcision in order to 'cleanse' the open wound. Health experts say that such a practice is dangerous to a baby as it increases the risk herpes infection. So far 13 such cases have been reported since 2000, resulting in the deaths of two babies while two others were left brain damaged.
The Jewish community has rejected repeated warnings that the practice leaves their babies at a serious health risk with Jewish religious organizations protesting against a Department of Health regulation that rabbis should get parental consent on a form before conducting the ritual. Health experts say that while herpes infection is easily treatable in adults, it poses a more serious risk in children as they do not have fully developed immune systems.
"A herpes infection in a newborn baby has the risk of leading to severe illness and death. The reason is that the baby doesn't have the same fully developed immune system as an adult. Instead of staying in the genital area, it extends throughout different organs in the body", the deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Jay Verma said.