Causes/ how does the child get it?
The child gets herpes during pregnancy, labor or birth. Herpes in babies is caused by two viruses Herpes Simplex Viruses ( also known as HSVs)
- HSV-1. This virus is called cold sores and fever blisters on the mouth and lips which then spreads throughout the skin.
- HSV-2. This virus causes most cases of genital herpes. It spreads through sex and skin-to-skin contact. This virus is the common cause with newborns, but HSV-1 can also cause it.
Babies can get herpes in three ways.
- Before birth which is called intrauterine herpes. You pass the virus to your baby in the uterus, however this kind of herpes is rare.
- During labor and birth (also called birth-acquired herpes) This usually happens when a baby passes through an infected vagina (also called birth canal). It’s the most common way babies get infected with the herpes. A baby can get infected without passing through the vagina, but this is rare. It can happen if the amniotic sac breaks before birth.
- After birth you can pass the virus to your baby after birth. For example, if you have a herpes sore on your lip and you kiss your baby’s skin, you can pass the virus to her.
- Bleeding easily
- Small red sores around the the eyes or mouth on the baby's skin
- Fast breathing, short periods without breathing or your baby’s skin looks blue
- Fatigue, baby feeling tired or exhausted
- Jaundice, when your baby's skin and the white part of his/ her eyes look yellow
- Poor feeding
To diagnose herpes, your baby’s provider may use these medical tests:
- Physical exam to look for sores
- Blood tests
- Liver function tests
- Magnetic resonance imaging (also called MRI). MRI uses large magnets and radio waves to make a clear picture of the inside of the body. Your baby may need an MRI of the head.
- Spinal tap, to check the spinal fluid for infection
- Swab of fluid and skin cells from the sores
How is this virus treated?
Acyclovir (also called Zovirax® Injection or acycloguanosine) is an antiviral medicine used to treat herpes infections in babies. Early treatment with acyclovir can stop the spread of the infection to the brain and other organs. Your baby may need to take acyclovir for several weeks.
If your baby has serious herpes complications, like shock or seizures, she may need treatment in a hospital.
- Herpes can be treated but not cured. This means the virus will remain in your child's body throughout their life. However, the symptoms can be managed. Your child's pediatrician will likely treat the infection with antiviral medications given through an IV (a needle or tube that goes into a vein). Acyclovir is the most commonly used antiviral medication for birth_acquired herpes.
- According to Boston Children's Hospital, herpes occur in approximately 30 out of 100,000 births.