Sara Pugh’s baby became ill when she was only a few days old. She was taken to hospital but not treated with antiviral drugs because “No one knew what was wrong.” As a result, the damage to her organs and brain caused this tragic death. This story was reported in the Daily Mirror, 5 Dec 2014.
The reason this could happen is that her mum had never had herpes simplex (cold sores or genital sores). So she did not have the antibodies to give the baby in the womb. Most women do have this virus and therefore pass the antibodies to their babies to protect them during birth. And that is why this is such a rare occurrence that it makes the news! In fact, it is not known from whom she caught herpes simplex.
If doctors consider herpes simplex when a new baby falls ill during the first days of life, then antiviral treatment, as a drip, can prevent any long-term complications – the baby makes a full recovery. Marian Nicholson of the HVA comments “Whilst his death is tragic, we need to put it in context. Nearly three quarters of a million babies are born each year, only 30 develop herpes simplex in the first days of life and most of these make a full recovery.
The reason the risk is so tiny is that all mothers who have herpes simplex antibodies give their babies ‘maternal antibody’ in the last months of pregnancy. So the baby is born with antibodies and is protected from catching the virus for a few months – when the ‘maternal antibody’ fades away. Because her mother had never caught herpes simplex virus, this baby did not have any protective antibodies and so was able, fatally, to catch the cold sore.” “Although cold sores are only a very small risk to newborns, I would still suggest that anyone with any sort of infection such as cold, flu or cold sores away from new babies.”