Most new parents spend their first month in a newborn haze of happiness and sleep deprivation.

But instead of newborn cuddles and late night nappy duties, Jeff and Natasha Gober had the heartbreaking task of kissing their three-week-old daughter goodbye for the last time.

Mallory Gober was less than one month old when she died of the herpes simplex virus, commonly caused by a cold sore. Her parents barely had a chance to get to know the precious little girl before she was gone.

baby dies cold sore virus

Malllory Gober baby dies cold sore virus
Goodbye sweet girl. Mallory Gober, images supplied with permission

Common cold sore virus kills newborn

It’s something hard to imagine, let alone experience. But through the grief Jeff has found the strength to speak up about his baby’s death, urging others to be vigilant to ensure this heartbreak never happens to them.

“I’ve been pretty silent since Mallory’s death. It’s taken me over a month now to write this, but if any good can come from her passing and prevent someone else from experiencing the heartache, then I would be remiss not to make an effort.”

Cold sores can kill

Mallory was infected with Herpes Simplex Virus-1 when she was just one week old. The virus is extremely common. WHO estimates that 67% of all humans are infected. However, many never show symptoms.

For many, living with a cold sore here or there is just a part of life. But for newborns, like Mallory, it can lead to death. The NHS reports that nearly a third of infants with this type of neonatal herpes will die, even after they’ve been treated.

As Jeff explains,

“Mallory was never in contact with a person who had an active cold sore. Never. Nobody ever kissed her on the mouth. In spite of that, she caught HSV-1 within her first week of life and we had to watch her die slowly for nearly 2 weeks.

She had no symptoms beyond a high fever for most of the first week, and by the time blisters showed up it was probably too late for the antivirals to be effective.”

Signs to watch for

According to the NHS, “because newborn babies have underdeveloped immune systems, they can quickly become seriously ill after catching the virus.”

A baby infected with HSV may:

  • Be listless, floppy and sleepy
  • Stop feeding
  • Have a high temperature
  • Emit a high pitched cry
  • Breath rapidly or have breathing difficulties
  • Have a blue tongue and skin
  • Have a rash

Contact your GP or midwife as soon as possible if your baby has any of the above symptoms and you’re worried.

‘Always wash your hands’ 

Jeff isn’t the first parent to lose a baby from herpes simplex virus. But his message and heartbreaking loss acts as a timely reminder for new parents to be aware of this infection.

Know the signs. Act accordingly. And always wash your hands. 

“Please, if you’re reading this, be extra diligent about washing your hands around newborns. If anyone wants to hold your baby, make sure they wash their hands first. Then make them do it again. We don’t understand why our beautiful daughter Mallory was the unlucky statistic, but that’s the way the world works I suppose.”

For more information on cold sores, please see our article on cold sore remedies or visit the NHS.


Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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