Kissing a baby feels natural to many people. But, mom, if yours is a newborn, we recommend that guests, whether they are close family or friends, keep physical contact to a bare minimum. Learn from this couple who is experiencing the painful aftermath of introducing guests to their new baby.
Mariana, daughter of Nicole and Shane Sifrit from Iowa in the U.S., had contracted a strain of the herpes virus (HSV-1), causing meningitis, an inflammation of the tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord, reported by news channel WHO-TV. She’s currently on life support, reported news sites, and doctors are yet to be certain if she’ll survive the serious, life-threatening condition that her parents speculate was brought about by an infected person’s kiss. If she lives, the condition will have debilitating long-term consequences on the little girl.
[UPDATE: One day after we wrote this story, Mariana passed away on July 18, WHO TV and CNN reported. She was 18 days old.]
Born on July 1, Mariana's parents noticed their baby exhibited distressing symptoms not even a week after her birth. “She stopped eating and wasn't waking up when we were trying to get her to respond,” Nicole told WHO-TV. On the day of their wedding, held July 7, they cut their celebration short to bring their daughter to the hospital where they learned about her disease.
Mariana was immediately sent to the neonatal intensive care unit. “It immediately went downhill from there. Within two hours, she had quit breathing and all of her organs just started to fail,” Nicole said.
Nicole and Shane both tested negative for the herpes virus, so Mariana likely contracted the infection from coming into close contact with someone else. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus can be transmitted from oral or skin surfaces. “They touch her and then she touches her mouth with her hand,” explained the mom.
In most adults, Mariana’s strain of the herpes virus does not cause meningitis. The majority are even unaware they're infected as the infection is mostly asymptomatic (shows no symptoms), according to WHO. Aside from being highly contagious, it’s one of the reasons why the virus is so widespread -- an estimated 3.7 billion people under age 50 have the infection. If symptoms do arise in adults, they appear as painful blisters around the mouth. The HSV virus in infants, however, can be very severe and cause death.
“I have to stay strong for her because she is still staying strong,” said the mom. The best case scenario, said Mariana’s doctors, is that she will be able to leave the hospital in a month. But even so, the virus would have done considerable damage to her health resulting in long-term consequences including severe disability.
Nicole warned other parents, “Keep your babies isolated. Don't let just anyone visit them. Make sure they are constantly washing their hands. Don't let people kiss your baby and make sure they ask before they pick up your baby.” A relative or friend may have herpes without you knowing and exhibiting no symptoms. It’s best to take precaution.
As meningitis can be caused many different viruses and bacteria, “a good general precaution against viral meningitis is attention to handwashing since enteroviruses in particular usually enter the body via the hand to mouth route,” said the Meningitis Research Foundation in the U.K.
And, one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their baby against the condition is through vaccination. Diseases that cause meningitis that have vaccination shots available in the Philippines include polio, measles, mumps, varicella (chicken pox), and influenza. There are also shots against Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib vaccine) and Pneumococcus bacteria (PCV vaccine). Except for varicella and influenza, all of these are available for free in health centers. Find the most recent Philippine vaccination schedule for children here.