Hundreds of North Dakota Catholics at risk of hepatitis A, Bishop John Folda diagnosed with virus
North Dakota health officials have said that hundreds of parishioners at Catholic churches in Fargo, Grand Forks and Jamestown may be at risk for hepatitis A after receiving communion at any of five area churches.
Anyone who attended and received communion at any of the following churches are at risk, albeit low, says health officials:
September 27, 2013: Holy Spirit Church in Fargo, N.D. (school mass)
September 29, 2013: St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Grand Forks, N.D. (10:30 a.m. mass)
September 29 – October 2, 2013: St. James Basilica in Jamestown, N.D. (priest convention)
October 6, 2013: Cathedral of St. Mary in Fargo, N.D. (noon mass only)
October 7, 2013: St. Paul’s Catholic Newman Center in Fargo, N.D.
“The risk of people getting hepatitis A in this situation is low, but the Department of Health felt it was important for people to know about the possible exposure,” said Molly Howell, Immunization Program manager for the North Dakota Department of Health. “Only people who attended these specific churches and had communion on these dates were possibly exposed to hepatitis A and should be tested if symptomatic. People who were exposed, but do not have
symptoms, are not recommended to be tested for hepatitis A.”
It is reported that new Fargo Bishop, John Folda has tested positive for hepatitis A, reportedly contracting the infection through contaminated food while attending a conference for newly ordained bishops in Italy last month.
The Fargo Catholic Diocese said earlier this week that Folda is taking some time off. Folda noted during a press conference that he is no longer contagious.
Pope Francis appointed then Monsignor John Thomas Folda as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fargo on April 8.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.
Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter,even in microscopic amounts, from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by feces or stool from an infected person.
Hepatitis A also can be spread through contaminated food or water. This most often occurs in countries where Hepatitis A is common, especially if personal hygiene or sanitary conditions are poor. Contamination of food can happen at any point: growing, harvesting, processing, handling, and even after cooking.
Not everyone has symptoms. If symptoms develop, they usually appear 2 to 6 weeks after becoming infected and can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and jaundice.
There is no specific treatment once symptoms appear, but a vaccination can help lessen the effects of the disease if given within 14 days of exposure.
A vaccine is currently available and routinely recommended for all children ages 12 to 23 months. Hepatitis A vaccine is required for child care entry in North Dakota. The vaccine is also available for anyone who wants to be protected from hepatitis A. Hepatitis A vaccine is often recommended prior to traveling outside of the United States. The vaccine is given as two doses over a six month time period. People who have been appropriately vaccinated are considered immune to hepatitis A.
The best way to control the spread of hepatitis A and many other illnesses is through proper hand washing, especially after using the restroom, changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food. Hand washing should include 20 seconds of vigorous soaping of all parts of the hands, especially between fingers and under fingernails.
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