Cold sore virus killed our 12-day-old baby
A couple whose baby died at 12 days old from the common cold sore virus are calling for increased awareness and policy changes to prevent the tragedy happening to other parents.
John and Louise Wills lost their baby daughter Eibhlín to Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-1) exactly one week after she came home from hospital on Tuesday 24 November 2015.
The virus, known as the common cold sore virus, showed no symptoms in Eibhlín until it was too late and resulted in multiple organ failure.
While death from the cold sore virus is rare, it is even rarer in Eibhlín’s case as 90% of these infections come from the mother.
However, Louise was tested and found not to have carried the virus, meaning it was contracted very soon after birth in the maternity hospital.
HSV is spread by direct contact with an infected site, saliva or genital secretions, with the most common means of transmission including kissing, genital contact or direct contact with an infected site such as hands.
Eibhlín was born in The National Maternity Hospital by emergency C-section on 19 November last year, weighing a healthy 7lb 11oz. She was nine days overdue and sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as a precaution as she had become “a little distressed” prior to delivery.
She spent five nights in hospital before coming home and showed high levels of alertness for a young baby and "all appeared well", even when she was examined by the Public Health Nurse four days before she died.
A couple of days later, Eibhlín appeared congested “as if she had caught a cold,” says Louise and John, who then asked Eibhlín's grandmother to come over for advice.
However, “within a couple of minutes” of deciding to bring Eibhlín to the GP in the morning “her colour changed in front of our eyes and she became listless.”
Eibhlín was brought to Tallaght A&E and was pronounced dead at 1:09am, exactly one week after she was brought home.
"You could have knocked me down with a feather. Herpes? The common cold sore virus?" said John on RTE Radio 1 of learning what had caused his daughter's death.
John and Louise are now working to raise awareness about the cold sore virus and the dangers it can have on new born babies.
They have set up a website in Eibhlín’s memory, wwww.rememberingeibhlin.org, which they are asking the public to support and share.
“We are sharing our story in Eibhlín's memory so we can create awareness about the dangers of cold sores and new born babies. We want all parents, parents-to-be and any medical staff working with them to be made aware of the risks so no one else ever has to face what we have gone through,” said John.
The couple aim to provide an information leaflet with Eibhlín’s story in the welcome packs issued to expectant mothers in Ireland’s maternity hospitals, to place information posters in clinics and to raise overall awareness of the virus and the consequences it can have on newborn babies.
Visit Eibhlín’s website here.