A grieving father is warning new parents about the importance of hand washing after his three-week-old daughter died from an extremely common virus.
Mallory Gober, from Phoenix, in the US, was just a week old when she contracted Herpes Simplex Virus- 1 (HSV-1), a form of the herpes virus that can cause cold sores and genital ulcers.
In a heartbreaking Facebook post from February, which is now resurfacing online, Mallory’s father, Jeff Gober reveals that he and his wife, Natasha, were initially confused by the diagnosis, especially since she had not been exposed to anyone with an active cold sore, and hadn’t been kissed on the mouth.
“She had no symptoms beyond a high fever for most of the first week,” Gober wrote. “By the time the blisters showed up it was probably too late for the antivirals to be effective.”
The parents believe their daughter most likely contracted the virus through her hands.
“Mallory could not keep her hands out of her mouth and eyes,” Gober said. “She was constantly sucking on her fingers… It’s almost certain that the virus got onto her hands at some point.”
According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 67 per cent of the world’s population are infected with some form of HSV-1 (oral or genital).
HSV-1 is extremely contagious and can be transmitted by oral-to-oral contact (kissing, sharing utensils or straws), oral-to-genital contact, or oral-to-skin surfaces.
Although many people may display symptoms of blisters or “cold sores” around their mouth, for many people the virus is asymptomatic. Most people with HSV-1 are unaware they are infected, let alone that they are infecting other people.
HSV-1 and other strains of the herpes virus (HSV-2) are particularly dangerous for newborns and children under a year old who lack a developed immune system.
Recognising symptoms of neonatal herpes simplex virus can be difficult, but parents should seek medical attention should their child develop a fever, refuse to eat, or develop one or more small skin blisters. The virus can cause newborns to become lethargic and can potentially progress to cause seizures. Newborns require immediate hospitalisation and an aggressive 21-day round of antiviral medication.
Although mortality rates have improved for newborns with strains of the herpes-simplex virus, the virus can potentially cause brain death or damage for those who survive.
New parents are encouraged to be diligent about not letting anyone who has had cold sores, or is experiencing an outbreak kiss their newborn.
Anyone who holds or comes in contact with a newborn should thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water – a message echoed by the Gobers.
“Please, if you’re reading this, be extra diligent about washing your hands around newborns,” Gober’s post concluded. “Statistically speaking, you’re probably infected with HSV-1 whether you know it or not.”
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