Mum's heartbreak as baby boy dies at 10 days old after catching herpes from her

Bar worker Kira Aldcroft, 22, is now calling for all pregnant women to be tested for the virus.

She had a perfectly healthy pregnancy before son Leo was born nine days ahead of schedule.

The mum-of-one, from Prestwich, Greater Manchester, said that she had no symptoms of genital herpes aside from thrush – which she claims nurses told her was a common side effect of being pregnant.

But just eight days after Leo's birth, Kira's dream turned into "a mother's worst nightmare", when her son was rushed to hospital with suspected sepsis after he began to bleed from his mouth.

After quickly deteriorating, Leo was put into an induced coma before doctors discovered that Kira was carrying and had passed on the herpes VSV2 virus (a type of genital herpes) to her son during his delivery.

"I was physically sick when the herpes test came back positive, as I had done everything humanly possible to give my son the best start in life," said Kira.

"I could have contracted it before or during the pregnancy, as it can be dormant for months or years so there's no way of telling.

"I had no knowledge I had the virus, as there were no symptoms other than thrush, and if I had been offered a test during my pregnancy all this heartache could have been avoided."

There are two strains of herpes: type 1 causes cold sores, while type 2 typically causes genital herpes and can be passed onto newborns during vaginal delivery.

How do babies catch herpes?

What is neonatal herpes?

Neonatal herpes is when a newborn baby is infected with the herpes virus.

Most babies recover with antiviral treatment if the infection is restricted to their eyes, mouth or skin.

However, the condition can become life-threatening if the virus spreads to a baby's organs – such as the brain – and almost a third of babies in this situation will die, even if they receive treatment.

Babies are at risk if their mother has contracted genital herpes for the first time within the last six weeks of pregnancy and had a vaginal delivery.

The herpes virus can also be passed on if a person with a cold sore kisses a baby or a mother breastfeeds while she has herpes sores on her breasts.

How to prevent neonatal herpes 

If you're pregnant and have had genital herpes at any point in your life, tell your doctor or midwife.

Medication may be prescribed to prevent an outbreak and delivery by caesarean section may be recommended if the herpes has occurred for the first time in the last six weeks of pregnancy.

If you develop a cold sore or think you're coming down with a herpes infection do not kiss babies and wash your hands before touching a baby.

If you're breastfeeding and have a cold sore wash your hands before feeding and cover up any cold sores so you do not accidentally touch them.

Both are dangerous to babies as their immune systems aren't yet equipped to fight the virus.

Just hours after being rushed to hospital, doctors told Kira that little Leo's liver and kidneys were failing and that he'd have to be put on a dialysis machine to be kept alive.

Soon after, however, staff found a clot and swelling on Leo's brain and discovered that all his organs were failing.

It was then that Kira made the heartbreaking decision to turn off his life support machine – but not before she had him baptised in a private room.

“Leo’s baptism was a nice moment to know I could bless him before he passed," she said.

“I wanted to get him christened at Christmas, but obviously his time came a lot sooner.

“The consultant then told us his condition had worsened.

“Once I knew the status of Leo’s health, I knew it was time for me as his mother to say ‘enough is enough’.

“Once I’d decided that, I was then allowed to be next to him and be by his side.

“I fell asleep with my head on his incubator and held his hand and when it was time to stop the machines, they let me hold him.

“It was heartbreaking, as he took his last breaths in my arms, I held his hand and held him so close, and told him how proud I was of him.

“The doctors then left the room, and let me and my family have our time alone and a chance to say goodbye.”

After Leo's death, Kira was forced to return home, surrounded by the clothes and toys she'd prepared for the baby just weeks before.

She went on: “He was a dream. I say to everyone he was born an angel.

“He never cried until that night.

“His death has been even harder because I came back to a house with all his things here.

“I can see all the things here that would have been.”

But she's channelling her grief into campaigning for everyone – not just mums-to-be – to undergo compulsory screening for all types of the herpes virus.

“I’m now urging men and women to get tested. That’s my message to everyone – not just pregnant women.

“I hope sharing Leo’s story will save other lives.”

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