- Baby Mariana was diagnosed with meningitis HSV-1, according to her mother
- The condition is caused by the herpes virus
- Parents should be careful during a child's first two months, a pediatrician warns
(CNN)Iowa newlyweds are clinging to hope as their nearly 3-week-old daughter fights for her life after contracting a deadly virus believed to be from a simple kiss.
Nicole and Shane Sifrit welcomed baby Mariana on July 1. A week later -- two hours after the couple's wedding -- they say they noticed that the girl was not eating and would not wake up when they tried to get her to respond.
"Within two hours, she had quit breathing, and all her organs just started to fail," Nicole Sifrit told CNN affiliate WHO.
According to WHO, the couple left their wedding early to take Mariana to Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines, where they learned that she had contracted meningitis HSV-1, caused by the herpes virus -- the same virus that causes cold sores.
Herpes meningitis can be caused by bacteria, fungi or other types of germs, and it can be spread through sexual contact or from a woman to her baby during childbirth, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Mariana's parents both tested negative for the virus, they said, suggesting that it could have come from others who visited the child.
"They touch her, and then she touches her mouth with her hand," Sifrit explained. It's hard to pinpoint exactly how Mariana caught the virus, but she wants people to know that it's important that people are cautious when they let anyone handle their babies.
Dr. Tanya Altmann, a pediatrician at Calabasas Pediatrics in California, said that "viral meningitis is transmitted through close casual contact. However, she caught the virus and then developed meningitis. ... It is very common to catch the virus, but very rarely does it develop into meningitis.
"The first two months after a child is born are very critical, as a virus can rapidly spread and cause serious illness in newborns," she said. This is why parents are advised to be particularly careful during those first months.
Sifrit told CNN that Mariana was airlifted to the University of Iowa Children's Hospital in Iowa City on July 10 when her condit