An investigation into who infected four boys with herpes during their circumcisions has ground to a halt after their families refused to identify the person who performed them, investigators have claimed.
The Orthodox Jewish families refused to help the New York City Health Department after suspicions were raised that authorities are trying to make the “metzitzah b'peh”, an ancient method of performing the circumcision through oral suction, illegal.
The custom, rarely practiced outside the Orthodox community, is performed eight days after the child’s birth.
Six families in Brooklyn have seen their children contract herpes - an infection that can cause brain damage and death in a newborn baby - since 2015.
But only two have been willing to come to forward and discuss who is responsible.
“Unfortunately, some in the community are resistant to sharing the name of the mohels," Health Department spokesman Christopher Miller told DNAinfo New York, using the Hebrew word for those who are trained to perform the circumcision.
"This is a very insular community,” he added.
An unnamed source said the community was suspicious about the Health Department wanting to end the tradition of metzitzah b'peh.
“That’s why we’re not willing to give out the mohels," they told the website. "We know the city is going to ban them without giving them due process.
“There is not proof that they actually infected the baby. It has to be proven, not blind accusation. We believe there is a group of overzealous officials in the Department of Health whose goal is banning the practice entirely. It's just a step for them."