Infant risk from maternal HSV-1

HERPES simplex virus 1 (HSV?1) is an increasing cause of genital disease in adolescent mothers, putting their babies at risk, a Sydney researcher says.

The proportion of neonatal HSV caused by HSV-1 increased by 59% in the 13 years to 2009, said Professor Cheryl Jones from the University of Sydney and the Centre for Perinatal Infection Research at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

“We’re seeing more cases due to HSV type 1 not HSV type 2, and people – GPs, specialists, communities – think that genital herpes is just HSV type 2,” she said.

“What’s clear is that genital herpes is caused by, in Australia, both strains of virus… and mothers who are getting it for the first time are passing the infection across [to the baby].”

It was well known that adolescents didn’t think oral sex was classified as sex, but they should be made aware of herpes risk to the baby, she said.