A consultant paediatrician at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Agatha David, says kissing a newborn on the lips or any part of the face can lead to meningitis, a viral infection caused by herpes. She warned parents against allowing outsiders to carry their newborns, especially within the first month of life, noting that their immune system is still very fragile to fight off pathogens or environmental germs.
Dr. David, who is the head, Clinical Trial Research Group and Chief Research Fellow at NIMR, disclosed this during an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, adding that some adults have blisters on the side of their lips caused by Herpes Simplex virus, and can also have it transmitted to a newborn through their breath.
The paediatrician said, “A baby’s immune system is not properly developed to fight off the infection. Herpes can be fatal at whatever age, and can manifest like blisters or fever burns. Herpes doesn’t clear, as it stays in the body and manifests when the immune system is suppressed. Kissing a baby on the face can cause such an infection that affects even the brain, and can lead to death,” she warned.
David explained that meningitis is an inflammation of the fluid and membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. She said it is often less severe than bacterial meningitis, and that most people get better on their own, but babies younger than one month old are more likely to have severe illness from viral meningitis.
“People displaying any visible signs of illness or common cold, cough, runny nose, sore throat, or a rash should not come into close contact with a newborn. People should treat newborns with respect. Wash and sanitise your hands when paying a visit to a home where there is a new baby. Don’t get too close. It is our culture to show love and care to a newborn, but such acts can endanger the life of the baby,” the consultant warned.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention also warned that herpes virus, which commonly affects the mouth in the form of cold sores, can cause significant infections in newborns.
“Herpes outbreaks can be painful or unsightly in adults; and when a newborn is infected with herpes, serious and, sometimes, fatal complications can occur,” CDC warned.