Iowa Parents Issue Warning After Newborn Daughter Contracts Life-Threatening Illness

An Iowa couple's newborn daughter has been placed on-life support after catching a potentially deadly virus, and her parents are speaking out to warn others.

"It's horrific," Nicole Sifrit told KTLA sister station WQAD-TV in an interview Friday. "It's one of the saddest things ever, and most of the time, I'm still in shock."

Sifrit and her husband Shane expected the first week of July to be the best week of their lives.

On July 1, Nicole gave birth to a baby girl named Mariana. Six days later, the couple wed.

But just two hours after exchanging their vows, the newlyweds noticed something terribly wrong with their week-old baby girl.

"Friday, we noticed she stopped eating and wasn't waking up when we were trying to get her to respond," Shane said.

The couple left their own wedding early to go to a Des Moines children's hospital, where they learned Mariana had contracted a potentially life-threatening virus called Meningitis HSV-1, caused by herpes.

Doctors say she likely got it from a kiss, from someone who carries the cold sore virus but not necessarily through an open sore.

"They touch her, and then she touches her mouth with her hand," Nicole explained.

Both parents tested negative for the virus, so Mariana was sent to the neonatal intensive care unit at Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines.

Her condition immediately worsened; within two hours, the infant had stopped breathing and her organs began to fail.

This week, when her condition worsened again, Mariana was airlifted from Des Moines to the Iowa City Children's Hospital so doctors can "just constantly watch every vital sign," her mother said. "She is currently on life support to help her by right now."

"She has a kidney team, a liver team, a blood team, a neurology team," her father added.

Both parents have a warning other new parents: "Keep your babies isolated, don't let just anyone come visit them, and make sure they are constantly washing their hands. Don't let people kiss your baby, and make sure they ask before they pick up your baby."

Doctors say the best care scenario is for Mariana to stay in the hospital for at least another month. They say because of the damage the virus has already caused, they expect long-term health problems if she survives.

According to the Meningitis Research Foundation, many people carry the herpes virus, without ever showing any signs or symptoms.