More at Risk for Hepatitis A Following Communion at Long Island Church

It seems that many more people may have been exposed to <"">Hepatitis A after receiving communion at a Long Island church. Initially, the Nassau County Department of Health said that only people attending two Christmas Day Masses at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church in Massapequa Park, Long Island faced a potential Hepatitis A risk, but now, it appears that those who took communion the following day also face a health threat.

Apparently, someone at Our Lady of Lourdes involved in distributing Holy Communion on Christmas Day was infected with Hepatitis A. The person who exposed the communion wafers to the contagion became ill during the week after Christmas. Several days later, blood tests confirmed the individual was suffering from Hepatitis A.

The public was first notified of the health risk connected to Our Lady of Lourdes on January 3. At that time, the health department warned that individuals could be at risk of contracting Hepatitis A if they received communion during the 10:30 a.m. and noon Masses on Christmas Day.

Now, it appears that some communion wafers left over from those two Masses were mixed in with others, and used at subsequent services. Now, worshipers who received Holy Communion at Our Lady of Lourdes Church at the 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Mass on December 26 should also seek treatment.

According to the Nassau County Department of Health, 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 hand washing 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 2 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, please call the Nassau County Department of Health at 516.227.9496 between the hours of 9:00 am and 4:45 pm. Additional information on hepatitis A is available on the Nassau County Department of Health web site at

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