Neonatal infection with herpes simplex virus (HSV) is not a nationally reportable disease; there have been few population-based measures of HSV-related infant mortality. We describe infant death rates due to neonatal HSV as compared with congenital syphilis (CS) and HIV, 2 reportable, perinatally transmitted diseases, in New York City from 1981 to 2013.


We identified neonatal HSV-, CS-, and HIV-related deaths using International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes listed on certificates of death or stillbirth issued in New York City. Deaths were classified as HSV-related if certificates listed (1) any HSV ICD-9/ICD-10 codes for deaths ≤42 days of age, (2) any HSV ICD-9/ICD-10 codes and an ICD code for perinatal infection for deaths at 43 to 365 days of age, or (3) an ICD-10 code for congenital HSV. CS- and HIV-related deaths were those listing any ICD code for syphilis or HIV.


There were 34 deaths due to neonatal HSV (0.82 deaths per 100 000 live births), 38 from CS (0.92 per 100 000), and 262 from HIV (6.33 per 100 000). There were no CS-related deaths after 1996, and only 1 HIV-related infant death after 2004. The neonatal HSV-related death rate during the most recent decade (2004–2013) was significantly higher than in previous years.


The increasing neonatal HSV-related death rate may reflect increases in neonatal herpes incidence; an increasing number of pregnant women have never had HSV type 1 and are therefore at risk of acquiring infection during pregnancy and transmitting to their infant.

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