Birth-acquired herpes : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : HSV, Congenital herpes, Herpes – congenital

Definition

Birth-acquired herpes is a herpes virus infection that an infant gets (acquires) at the time of birth.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Newborn infants can become infected with herpes virus:

  • In the uterus (intrauterine herpes — this is very rare)
  • Passing through the birth canal (birth-acquired herpes, the most common method of infection)
  • Right after birth (postpartum)

If the mother has an active genital herpes infection at the time of delivery, the baby is more likely to become infected during birth. Some mothers are not aware when they have internal (inside the vagina) herpes sores, so it is important for women to tell their doctor if they have a history of genital herpes.

In addition, some people have had herpes infections in the past, but were not aware of it and were never diagnosed or treated. These people, not knowing that they have herpes, may pass it to their baby. Herpes type 2 (genital herpes) is the most common cause of herpes infection in newborn babies, but herpes type 1 (oral herpes) can also occur.

Pictures & Images

Congenital herpes

Infants may acquire congenital herpes from a mother with an active, possibly inapparent herpes infection at the time of birth. Aggressive treatment with antiviral medication is required, but may not be effective in the case of systemic herpes.


Review Date : 10/15/2008
Reviewed By : Daniel Rauch, MD, FAAP. Director, Pediatric Hospitalist Program, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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