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Cold Sore Kills Baby Girl

Louise and Eibhlin


Cold Sore Kills Baby Girl

This is the tragic story of a young couple whose beautiful new born baby girl dies suddenly.  Their baby was born healthy, but because of contracting a fatal cold sore virus, her organs failed and she passed away at just 12 days old.  Despite their heartbreaking experience the couple aren’t bitter; they just want to create awareness so that other couples and families don’t experience the same heartache that they have gone through.  John and Louise are friends of mine and I feel privileged to know these two amazing people.  Through them sharing their story they will help to save babies lives.  John says “We are sharing our story in Eibhlín’s memory so we can create awareness about the dangers of cold sores and new born babies. We want all parents, parents-to-be and any medical staff working with them to be made aware of the risks so no one else ever has to face what we have gone through”.

Eibhlín Gráinne Wills was born at 9:29am on Thursday 19th November 2015 by an emergency C-Section in The National Maternity Hospital.  She weighed a healthy 7lb 11oz.  Shortly after birth she was sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit because she had become a little distressed prior to delivery.  She spent only five nights there and after that she came home. She ate well, slept and was very alert for a newborn baby.  However a few days later she wasn’t herself, she was a bit congested and seemed like she had caught a cold. She was also a bit clingier to her parents.  She slept a lot that day and John and Louise were a bit concerned so they asked Eibhlín’s granny for advice.  She said it would be best to bring her to the GP the following day.  However a few minutes later, her colour began to change and she became extremely listless.

John and Louise rushed Eibhlín straight to Tallaght A&E where she was immediately taken in and a crash team called. Tragically, Eibhlín passed away at 1:09am, a week to the day since she had come home from hospital.  She was handed to Louise and John wrapped in a blanket with her little eyes closed. The post-mortem concluded that the cause of death was Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1) which is also known as the Cold Sore Virus.  In Eibhlín’s case it was Disseminated Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus 1, which incubates for a time and results in multiple organ failure but there are no symptoms until it is too late. This type of death is unusual, and it is even more unusual in Eibhlín’s case as 90% of these infections come from the mother. Louise was tested and was found not to be carrier of the virus.  Louise said “Eibhlín contracted the virus postnatally and, although we may never know from whom or exactly when it happened, we know from tests that the virus was already in her system when she came home from the maternity hospital with us.”

John and Louise have discovered that obtaining exact statistics on new born babies who have contracted the cold sore virus in Ireland is difficult. This could be because neonatal herpes is not a notifiable disease in this country. They are hopeful that this will change in the future and they will be calling for the Minister for Health to make this happen. Louise said that she and John were shocked that such a common virus as a cold sore caused their little girl’s death, and appalled at the lack of information available.  Louise said “In Eibhlín’s legacy we now want to ensure the general public is aware how lethal a cold sore can be to a new born baby.”

In order for the public and professional’s to be aware of the dangers of cold sores, John and Louise propose the following.

To provide an information leaflet with Eibhlín’s story and website details in the welcome packs issued to mothers-to-be in Ireland’s maternity hospitals

To ensure that Eibhlín’s story is mentioned in the antenatal classes

To place information posters in clinics

To remind visitors to mums and babies not to visit if they have a current cold sore

To provide more information to student midwives/ nurses/ healthcare workers

To ensure consultants include Herpes Simplex Virus and Eibhlín’s story in lectures/ educational forums

To encourage GPs to discuss the virus with expectant mothers, and after the birth of their baby, to be mindful if they or close family and friends suffer from cold sores.

To place posters and/or leaflets in GP surgeries

They also want maternity hospitals to include an explicit infection protocol that applies to any staff member with active Herpes Simplex Virus working with new born babies and to ensure Infection Control sections of maternity hospital websites provide relevant information for patients and visitors.


Poem about Eibhlín

The little one we longed for was swiftly here and gone,

but the love that was then planted is a light that still shines on.

And though our arms are empty, our hearts know what to do.

For they keep on beating every day to say that we love you.


Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) – The Facts

The Virus
Human Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) types 1 and 2 are part of the family of Human Herpes viruses. HSV-1 is the common cause of ‘cold sores’, that typically appear on the face, generally around the lips or nostril; however, depending on the initial site of infection they can affect the skin at any sites. Involvement around the nail bed is called a Herpetic Whitlow.  HSV-2 is more commonly associated with painful blisters or ulcers in, or around, the genital area.  The locations are not completely exclusive and either virus can affect any site.  HSV viruses, once acquired, persist in the body in a dormant state even after the acute symptoms subside.  The frequency at which they reactivate, (i.e. with development of painful watery blisters) varies from individual to individual.  Currently it is estimated that 3.7 billion people worldwide are infected with HSV-1.

Common symptoms of both types of infection include onset of tingling discomfort followed by development of painful blisters or ulcers at the site of infection.  These frequently flare up at times of stress.  People may also carry this virus yet never show symptoms (be asymptomatic).

HSV is spread by direct contact with a skin lesion, saliva, or genital secretions.  The virus can spread from person to person whether symptoms are present or not, but it is most likely to spread during an active outbreak.  The most common means of transmission include kissing, genital contact, or direct contact with another infected site (e.g. hands).

HSV & Neonates
Neonatal HSV is a very serious condition, and in some cases (as in baby Eibhlín’s) can be fatal. Typically, in 85% of cases, neonatal HSV is transferred from the mother to baby during delivery, so called vertical transmission.  Infection of the baby during pregnancy occurs in a further 5%.  However, in 10% of cases it is transferred from another person to the baby after birth, i.e. horizontal transmission, as happened in Eibhlín’s case.

Thank you for taking the time to read Eibhlín’s story, and please share her website, to promote education and awareness. – John & Louise Wills

John and Louise have created a website in Eibhlín’s memory ( which they are asking the public to support and share.  You can also contact Sheila Gahan on +353 (0)87 234 2409 or



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