When Nicole and Shane Sifrit welcomed their daughter, Mariana, into the world on July 1, they never thought something as normal as a kiss would leave their baby girl fighting for her life.
Just a week after she was born, the couple noticed one day that Mariana was not eating and would not wake up.
“Within two hours,” Nicole said, “she had quit breathing, and all her organs just started to fail.”
The couple rushed their week-old daughter to Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, where doctors confirmed the infant had contracted meningitis HSV-1. The infection is caused by the herpes virus—the same one that causes cold sores.
Yesterday morning, Nicole posted the following update to Facebook.
Otherwise known as the kissing disease, Herpes meningitis can be spread through either casual contact, sexual contact or from a mother to her baby during childbirth.
According to the World Health Organization, 2 in every 3 people under the age of 50 have HSV-1. It’s commonly known as oral herpes and presents itself in the form of cold sores. That means that 3.7 billion people—more than half of the world’s population—is walking around with a (currently) incurable virus. And many don’t even know they have it.
Different from genital herpes (HSV-2), HSV-1 can be transmitted through sexual activity, but can also be contracted through the swapping of spit in some capacity—like a family member kissing Mariana on the lips—or even just skin-to-skin contact where a carrier sheds skin cells containing the virus and they come in contact with an opening in another’s skin.
In Mariana’s case, she caught the herpes virus, and then developed viral meningitis from it.
Both Nicole and Shane tested negative for the HSV-1 virus, and suggested it came from others who visited or had contact with the child in her first few days.
“They touch her, and then she touches her mouth with her hand,” Nicole explained.
Doctors say it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how the infant caught the virus, but they believe it was likely contracted from a kiss.
Nicole now wants other parents to know how important it is to be cautious with the interactions between other people and their babies.
According to pediatrician Dr. Tanya Altmann, “The first two months after a child is born are very critical, as a virus can rapidly spread and cause serious illness in newborns.”
Parents are advised to be especially careful with their kids during this fragile first stage of life.
At 8:41 a.m. on Tuesday morning, just 18 days after making her entrance into the world, Mariana passed away.
No parent should ever have to lose a child at the hands of something completely preventable. My heart breaks for the Sifrit family, and I pray that their heartbreaking loss will serve as a warning to all parents about the dangers of physical contact with newborns.
Be cautious about touching. Infants are susceptible to far more than anyone else. If the difference between life and death for your child is a kiss from aunt Bertha, I’d say it’s worth stopping her.
My prayers are with the Sifrit family during this time.