Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes confirmed on Wednesday that his office is continuing an investigation into the death of an infant who succumbed to a herpes virus contracted during a ritual circumcision, according to The New York Times.
The unidentified infant died last fall at Maimonides Medical Center, and the medical examiner’s office recorded the cause of his death as “disseminated herpes simplex virus Type 1, complicating ritual circumcision with oral suction.”
The phrase “ritual circumcison with oral suction” refers to a practice called metzitzah b’peh, which nearly all ultra-Orthodox Jews and a smaller proportion of Orthodox Jews observe. After removing an infant’s foreskin, a practitioner of metzitzah b'peh sucks blood from the wound, a procedure that was traditionally thought to have hygienic merit.
Authorities are working with the Orthodox community to determine the identity of the rabbi implicated in the latest death resulting from metzitzah b'peh. In 2003 and 2004, three circumcision-related cases of herpes in infants, one of which resulted in death, led back to a Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer. He was later banned from performing the ritual and he is not believed to be under investigation as part of the DA’s current probe, according to the Times.
Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, estimated for the Times that roughly two-thirds of newborn boys in the city’s Orthodox communities undergo metzitzah b'peh.