Fatal Neonatal Herpes Simplex Infection Likely from Unrecognized Breast Lesions

J Hum Lact. 2016 Feb;32(1):86-8. doi: 10.1177/0890334415596987. Epub 2015 Jul 16.


Type 1 herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) is very prevalent yet in rare circumstances can lead to fatal neonatal disease. Genital acquisition of type 2 HSV is the usual mode for neonatal herpes, but HSV-1 transmission by genital or extragenital means may result in greater mortality rates. A very rare scenario is presented in which the mode of transmission was likely through breast lesions. The lesions were seen by nurses as well as the lactation consultant and obstetrician in the hospital after delivery of the affected baby but not recognized as possibly being caused by herpes. The baby died 9 days after birth with hepatic failure and disseminated intravascular coagulation. Peripartum health care workers need to be aware of potential nongenital (including from the breast[s]) neonatal herpes acquisition, which can be lethal.

Keywords: breastfeeding; neonatal herpes simplex; type 1 herpes.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast / virology*
  • Breast Feeding / adverse effects*
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Herpes Simplex / diagnosis*
  • Herpes Simplex / transmission*
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis*

Supplementary concepts

  • Neonatal herpes