One mom is speaking out about her baby’s medical ordeal to raise awareness.
In a Facebook post that has received 3,000 likes and 1,200 comments, Rhian Brace — a mom in Doncaster, England — discussed her son Ernie’s struggle with Herpes simplex virus.
Ernie’s symptoms seemed insignificant at first. “Ernie didn’t have a temperature, his nappies hadn’t changed, he was feeding as he had been for the two weeks he had been at home,” Brace said in her Facebook post. “The only indication I had that he wasn’t well was one tiny blister like spot on the back of head.”
Doctors told her that her son must have eczema. “I cleaned the area and re-washed his head/hair just in case it was infectious,” she wrote. “Three days later another 4 had appeared and then over night another 6 had made an appearance, all looking like infected blisters, it was then I decided to contact the doctors as the previous diagnosis that had been given didn’t seem right to me.”
At the hospital, Ernie was diagnosed with Herpes simplex virus. He received two weeks of IV medication in the hospital and will take oral medication for six months at home. Brace wrote, “We have been told that if Ernie gets to his 1st birthday and the virus has not come back or showed anymore signs then the virus that has hospitalised him for the first weeks of his life has been completely killed.”
Brace tells PEOPLE that Ernie is on the rebound. “Ernie is well,” she says. “He settled back into his routine brilliantly. He is still as smiley, bubbly and happy as he was before going into hospital.”
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Jeffrey S. Gerber, an infectious disease doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, explains to PEOPLE, “In general, the vast majority of people handle this infection fine and it’s nothing more than a nuisance. Many people are infected and will never know. Infants, however, are a different story. Neonatal Herpes simplex infection is rare (about 1 in 2500 newborns) but can be devastating.”
Gerber, who did not treat Ernie and is not familiar with his particular situation, says Neonatal Herpes is “typically is transmitted within the first 3-4 weeks of life, most often vertically transmitted from the female genital tract.”
Although being exposed to a cold sore can also transmit the disease, Gerber says “that’s not the way it’s typically transmitted” to an infant.
Of course, he adds, “If you have a cold sore you should not come in contact with the young infant.”
Of babies who do contract Neonatal Herpes, he says, “About half have skin, eye, and/or mouth disease, and the rest get either central nervous system or disseminated (everywhere) infections. The latter of the 2 are more severe. If the babies survive, about 50% will have recurrent skin lesions throughout at least the first several months of life, which is why they are treated for at least 6 months.”
Gerber notes that quick recognition and treatment with an antiviral medication are important ways to combat the infection.
Brace has kept Ernie’s spirits by giving him “lots of love and cuddles.” She adds to PEOPLE, “We go out every day to be in the fresh air. He is such a happy baby anyway. We just spend a lot of time together doing things I know he loves.”
One silver lining of Ernie’s illness has been the response to Brace’s Facebook post. “The reaction has been absolutely overwhelming,” Brace notes. “I never, ever expected for my Facebook to post to be shared as much as it has been and still is. The love, well wishes and such kind words really touched my heart.”