Last update Nov. 23, 2019
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) causes oral (HSV type I) and genital lesions (HSV types II and I). It is considered a sexually transmitted virus.
The neonatal infection is more common in case of primary infection of the mother than in case of recurrent herpetic lesions (50% vs. 5%).
Most transmissions occur at the time of the partum by contact with genital lesions (Tremolada 2008).
During the neonatal period the disease can be very serious; beyond this period it does not usually have serious consequences.
Although HSV DNA 1 and 2 are frequently found in breast milk (Kotronias 1999), there is only one allegedly documented case of transmission of HSV-1 through breast milk in the absence of skin, oral or genital lesions in the mother (Dunkle 1979).
In other cases the transmission was due to herpetic lesions in the breast (Field 2016, Parra 2013, Sullivan 1983, Quinn 1978).
There are also published cases of reverse infection: oral lesions of an infant with herpetic gingivostomatitis were transmitted to the nipple of the mother (Sealander 1989 Dekio 1986) and a sexually transmitted herpetic mastitis (Brown 1996).
Breastfeeding is contraindicated only if there are lesions on the breast, but it should be allowed to breastfeed a baby from the unaffected breast (Garcia-Loygorri 2015, Lawrence 2013 y 2004, Henrot 2002, Grossman 1981).
For other locations standard preventive measures should be taken: thorough hand washing, covering the lesions so that the infant does not come into contact with them; wear masks and avoid lip contact (kissing) if the mother has herpes in the lips or stomatitis.
Suggestions made at e-lactancia are done by APILAM team of health professionals, and are based on updated scientific publications. It is not intended to replace the relationship you have with your doctor but to compound it. The pharmaceutical industry contraindicates breastfeeding, mistakenly and without scientific reasons, in most of the drug data sheets.
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