Churchgoers Warned of Potential Hepatitis A Exposure

The Nassau County Department of Health in New York has notified Our Lady of Lourdes Church, located in Massapequa Park, that those individuals who received Holy Communion on Dec. 25, 2010 during the 10:30 a.m. and noon masses were potentially exposed to hepatitis A.

The Nassau County Department of Health will offer immune globulin or hepatitis A vaccine to those potentially exposed to hepatitis A. The vaccine will be available Jan. 4 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and on Jan. 5 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church school auditorium, 855 Carmans Road in Massapequa Park, N.Y.

Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A virus may be spread by consuming food or drink that has been handled by an infected person. It may also be spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A. Casual contact, as in sitting in church during mass, office or school setting, does not spread the virus.

The symptoms of hepatitis A may range from mild to severe and include an abrupt onset of fever, fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, stomach pain, dark-colored urine and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). The disease is rarely fatal and most people recover in a few weeks without any complications. The symptoms commonly appear within 28 days of exposure, with a range of 15-50 days. There are no special medicines or antibiotics that can be used to treat a person once symptoms appear. Generally bed rest is all that is needed. Thorough handwashing after bathroom use and before, during and after food preparation is the most important means to prevent the spread of this and other intestinal illnesses. Sharing of food and utensils should be discouraged especially whenever anyone is ill.

Individuals exposed to hepatitis A should receive immune globulin (IG) or a hepatitis A vaccination within two weeks of exposure to a person who is contagious with hepatitis A infection. Individuals who have been vaccinated for hepatitis A or who have had the illness in the past are protected from hepatitis A infections, and there is no need for further action.

For additional information on the potential hepatitis A exposure at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, call the Nassau County Department of Health at (516) 227.9496 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. Additional information on hepatitis A is available on the Nassau County Department of Health web site at http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Health/index.html

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