To most adults, cold sores are an unattractive minor annoyance – but to babies they can be deadly. A Queensland mum is speaking out about the dangers of the virus after her baby daughter died at just 24 days old.
Eloise Lampton was born in Mackay by emergency C-section on November 1. Like all newborns, she was admired, kissed, cuddled by a multitude of loving relatives and friends. Doctors thought Eloise was having a feeding issue when she lost 1kg in the week after her birth.
“When we came home she just wanted to sleep … she wasn’t a crying baby,” mum Sarah Pugh tells Daily Mail Australia. But as Eloise’s health deteriorated, her worried parents rushed her back to the hospital. Eloise was flown to Brisbane’s Mater Hospital, and became so gravely ill that she was put on life support.
“It all happened so quickly, like within hours. She was in the hospital and we thought she was fine, then that night we were told she might not survive the night,” Ms Pugh says. “Every day we’d go in there and it was devastating to see her like that. It was heartbreaking. She was fully sedated but we’d touch her and she’d try to hold our hand.”
Two days later, doctors diagnosed her with a herpes simplex virus. “I was shocked. I was devastated to know she was born healthy and then this happened,” Ms Pugh, who has three older children, says. “They thought it could have come from me, but I didn’t test positive to the disease. It was passed on through a cold sore. You have to be in contact – kissed or touched. It could have been from anyone.”
She tells the ABC doctors think Eloise caught the virus one or two days after birth. While in intensive care, the fragile little girl contracted a staph infection, which led to a cyst on her brain. Doctors told her parents they could no longer help their precious baby.
“Eloise had a very large legion on her brain, her organs had shut down and they couldn’t be sure how she would recover again,” Ms Pugh tells the Daily Mail. “She fought right until the end.”
Doctors took Eloise off the machine, and her parents held her until she took her last breath.
Ms Pugh says she wants others to learn from Eloise’s death and take extra caution around babies, particularly in their first six months. “Make sure you are washing your hands and taking care with your personal hygiene, it is a must around little kids,” she tells the ABC.
It is very rare for babies to die from or even contract a herpes virus – there are about four cases in Australia for every 100,000 live births.
Mackay Base Hospital child and adolescent health director Michael Williams tells the ABC most infections happen during delivery: “Most babies who develop the herpes infection in the newborn period acquire it through the birthing process. It is only a small percentage – one in 10 – acquire it after birth.”
Westmead children’s hospital paediatrician Professor Cheryl Jones tells the ABC the virus responsible for cold sores can also cause genital herpes, eye infections and brain disease. She says babies can contract the virus if there is a break in the skin and they are kissed by someone with an active cold sore or touched by someone who has herpes on their fingers.