A “kiss of death” can infect infants with herpes transmitted by people with cold sores, a British couple nearly learned last month. Though neonatal herpes mostly results from a maternal infection, it can be passed to babies after birth by another person.
Lucy Kendall and her partner, Jaz Miller, welcomed their newborn into the world on Aug. 3, but their excitement was short-lived when Oliver Jaz Miller stopped drinking milk after 11 days and developed a temperature, his mother wrote in a Facebook post.
The new parents rushed their baby to the hospital, where he was put onto a heated bed with oxygen and given a feeding tube while under supervision for eight days.
Doctors later deduced that Oliver Jaz Miller had caught neonatal herpes, which can be passed onto newborn babies via a person who has a cold sore then kisses or touches the child.
“Both of us didn't have herpes or cold sores, we were just heartbroken,” Kendall said, according to The Hull Daily Mail. “The condition is known as the kiss of death and it was just devastating for us all.”
Infections of neonatal herpes via cold sores remains a relatively rare condition, with transmission more commonly occurring via an infected mother to a newborn during delivery, The American Family Physician reported.
Incidence rates of infection range between one per 3,000 to 20,000 live births.
The UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas noted that herpes symptoms in infants can be vague and can crop up anywhere on the body.
Infections can result in fatal organ damage, serious viral infections, recurrent sores on the skin, eyes, genitals, or mouth, blindness, deafness and seizures.
“Do not allow anyone with a cold sore, or anyone who you know has had a cold sore in the previous week, to hold or kiss your baby,” the medical center warned. “If you’re concerned about hurting a friend’s or relative’s feelings by declining their visit with your baby, involve your nurse or doctor.”
In her Facebook post, Kendall explained that cold sores are most contagious “when they burst (rupture),” and they “remain contagious until completely healed.”
Oliver Jaz Miller remained in hospital for 21 days and was released with six months’ worth of antibiotics on condition that he return for regular checkups.
“One in three babies can die if they contract the virus, it is so dangerous and people need to be aware of it more,” Kendall said, according to The Hull Daily Mail. “Please respect newborn babies and stay away if you have a cold sore. Keep your babies safe.”
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