Dear Colleague:

The New York City Health Department is working to educate parents about the risks of a ritual Jewish circumcision (bris) practice known as metzitzah b’peh, in which the circumciser uses his mouth to suck blood away from the wound on the infant’s penis. In 2016, metzitzah b’peh was linked to at least two cases of neonatal herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infections among New York City infants. Herpes infection in infants can lead to serious illness, even death.

Parents who choose ritual circumcision for their son may not be aware that direct orogenital suction may be performed or may not be aware of its potential risks.

The Health Department recently revised the “Have a Safe Bris for Your Baby” pamphlet. Please distribute this version of the pamphlet to expectant parents and/or new parents who visit your facility. You can obtain hard copies in English or Yiddish by calling 311. For electronic copies, click HERE, or visit and search for “bris.” A poster is also available and can be ordered by calling 311.

If you have questions, or to report a potential case of neonatal HSV-1, please contact the Health Department’s Provider Access Line at 866-692-3641.


Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH
October 2017


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