Iowa baby dies from deadly herpes virus likely contracted from kiss

IOWA CITY, Iowa — An Iowa couple, newlyweds and new parents, announced the sad news on Tuesday that their nearly 3-week-old daughter has died after contracting a deadly virus believed to be from a simple kiss.

Nicole and Shane Sifrit welcomed baby Mariana on July 1. A week later — two hours after the couple’s wedding — they say they noticed that the girl was not eating and would not wake up when they tried to get her to respond.

“Within two hours, she had quit breathing, and all her organs just started to fail,” Nicole Sifrit told CNN affiliate WHO.

According to WHO, the couple left their wedding early to take Mariana to Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, where they learned that she had contracted meningitis HSV-1, caused by the herpes virus — the same virus that causes cold sores.

On Tuesday, July 18th, Nicole Sifrit posted to Facebook that her sweet angel had died.

Herpes meningitis can be caused by bacteria, fungi or other types of germs, and it can be spread through sexual contact or from a woman to her baby during childbirth, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Mariana’s parents both tested negative for the virus, they said, suggesting that it could have come from others who visited the child.

“They touch her, and then she touches her mouth with her hand,” Sifrit explained. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how Mariana caught the virus, but she wants people to know that it’s important that people are cautious when they let anyone handle their babies.

Dr. Tanya Altmann, a pediatrician at Calabasas Pediatrics in California, said that “viral meningitis is transmitted through close casual contact. However, she caught the virus and then developed meningitis. … It is very common to catch the virus, but very rarely does it develop into meningitis.

“The first two months after a child is born are very critical, as a virus can rapidly spread and cause serious illness in newborns,” she said. This is why parents are advised to be particularly careful during those first months.

Sifrit told CNN that Mariana was airlifted to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital in Iowa City on July 10 when her condition deteriorated. As of Sunday, “they are trying to keep the baby stable,” and doctors are “fluctuating her dialysis to drain fluid off her body.”

Doctors had warned that because of the damage the virus caused, if Mariana survived, she will have long-term problems with her brain, liver and kidneys, according to Sifrit.

Fundraising contributions for unexpected medical expenses can be sent to an online website available here: https://www.gofundme.com/53bkun-help-baby-mariana