A mother has been warning internet users after her son got herpes by a kiss from a relative. Hayley Etheridge, the mother of Baylie-Grey, revealed how her kid was left with his face covered in a rash caused by the herpes virus. Etheridge, 24, was left further shocked when she was informed by medics that her unborn child, Vito, also had the risk of getting herpes.
The virus can be communicated from the mother to the child, leaving fatal consequences for the unborn. Herpes in newborns can be very dangerous because they do not have a developed immune system so they can’t fight the virus properly. In toddlers, the virus might not have fatal consequences because they have a fully formed immune system that can help them fight the disease.
The mother was told by the doctors that Baylie could lose vision if the virus managed to reach his eyes. But, luckily, little Baylie fully recovered from the virus and his brother Vito didn’t even catch it.
Etheridge, a resident of Greater Manchester, is now running an awareness campaign in collaboration with other parents who have lost their children to herpes.
The mom-of-two first noticed the signs in Baylie when he got a rash on his face and was unusually lethargic. She was pregnant with Vito at the time and it was her 35th week.
Etheridge was referred to the North Manchester General Hospital where doctors confirmed that Baylie had contacted Herpes Virus Type 1 or HSV-1.
HSV-1 can be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact and through saliva. The virus has no effect on adults but can be seriously dangerous for young children.
Etheridge told Manchester Evening News: ‘When doctors told me it was herpes I was shocked, people assume it’s always sexually transmitted but it’s not.
‘I remember sitting and crying talking to the doctors, asking them my questions and getting answers no mother wants to hear.
‘They told me that if the virus spread to his eyes that Baylie could go blind – I was absolutely terrified. I had no idea that a simple cold sore virus could be so dangerous to a child.’
The doctors told Etheridge that if she had also caught the virus from Baylie, there was a high chance of it being transmitted to Vito in her womb, leading to fatal consequences.
They advised her to get immediate medical attention to avoid such a scenario.
‘Doctors told me that if I passed it on to my newborn baby it could cause blindness, brain damage or he could even be stillborn. I was sat there thinking I have one child in a really serious situation and now I am being told my other baby could die. I have never been so scared in my life,’ she recalled.
Even after treatment, the herpes virus can go dormant and stay inactive in the body. It can then be reactivated at any time displaying symptoms like cold sores and rash.
Fortunately, Vito was born without the virus in May 2017. Both Vito, aged 2, and Baylie, aged 5, are now living a healthy life with their mom.
‘Although Baylie comes up in the virus sometimes when he is poorly and run down, he’s only been in hospital twice with it,’ Etheridge said.
‘Vito is now two and has never had any problem or seemed to have contracted the virus, thankfully. Even though my story has a happy ending, some people’s don’t.
‘Even though what happened to my family is rare, it still happens. I am one of the lucky ones.’
Etheridge had a happy ending to the herpes story, but not everyone is as fortunate. Kira Aldcroft lost her newborn to the virus HSV-2 in 2018.
Kira, 22, didn’t know she was having the dormant virus which got transmitted to her son, leading to his death.
Kira and Etheridge are now actively campaigning to raise awareness in pregnant women to use the Western Blot Test in order to track and halt the virus in time.
Etheridge said: ‘People say you shouldn’t wrap your children up in bubble wrap, let them come into germs and dirt and let them learn to fight it off on their own, and that’s fine.
‘But there are some things children aren’t able to fight off, and the risk is not worth it. Please be careful with your babies, they’re so tiny and fragile that even a simple kiss can break them.’