Hepatitis A Exposure Scare in Nassau County, New York

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The Nassau County Department of Health has notified Our Lady of Lourdes Church of a possible exposure to hepatitis A. A person with the contagious virus took part in the Holy Communion on December 25, 2010 during the 10:30 am and 12 noon masses, potentially exposing everyone who also participated and received communion during the services.

The Health Department estimates a total of 1,300 people attended both masses. Individuals are encouraged to come back to the church Tuesday, January 4, or Wednesday, January 5, to receive either a vaccination or immune globulin.

Lawrence Eisenstein, Commissioner of the Nassau Co. Department of Health said, “The first thing we want to tell everybody is do not panic. We are still within the period that vaccination or immune globulin, depending on what you qualify for, will prevent disease to a very, very high rate.”

Nassau County Department of Health will offer immune globulin or hepatitis A vaccine to those potentially exposed to hepatitis A. 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.

The vaccine will be available:

  • Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - 3 pm to 8 pm
  • Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - 9 am to 3 pm
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Church School Auditorium, 855 Carmans Road, Massapequa Park, New York

"Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver. It also refers to a group of viral infections that affect the liver . The most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C, but there is also Hepatitis D and Hepatitis E.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 25,000 new cases of Hepatitis A occurred in 2007.

Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus. This type of hepatitis may be spread close person-to-person contact with an infected person, sexual contact with an infected person, and ingestion of contaminated food or drinks.

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).

Hepatitis A 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.

Even though it causes illness, the virus is not as dangerous as infection with hepatitis B or C, which cause a chronic disease and can lead to liver failure.

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 http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Health/index.html

If you are an out-of-town individual who attended the service while visiting family, then you are encouraged to see your own physician or local Health Department.

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