More N.Y. Churchgoers Potentially Exposed to Hepatitis A

Health officials in Nassau County announced Thursday that more people who attended services at a Long Island, N.Y. church could have been exposed to hepatitis A.

Worshipers who received Holy Communion at Our Lady of Lourdes Church at the 7:30am, 9:00am, 10:30am, 12:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Mass on Dec. 26 were urged to seek treatment, authorities said in a statement.

The warning came three days after parishioners who received communion on Dec. 25 at the same church were advised to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Just sitting in the church during Mass would not put churchgoers at risk, officials said.

The symptoms usually appear within 28 days of exposure, with a range of 15 to 50 days, Nassau health officials said.

Once symptoms appear, no medication can be used to treat a patient and bed rest is usually all that is advised.

The health department, citing privacy concerns, have declined to identify the original person who was infected with hepatitis A.

Meanwhile, the scare has caused church officials across the region to examine health and hygiene issues, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Basics like using hand sanitizer and refraining from shaking your neighbors' hand or sipping from the communion cup if you are sick are being reinforced.

At St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church in Clark, N.J., parishioners no longer handle the communion wafers that they once transferred from one bowl to another at the start of mass.

Instead, parishioners use a very untraditional looking contraption known as a communion host dispenser. They pull a trigger and wafers are deposited into a bowl for consecration.

"There was a big concern about germs on the hands getting on stuff so we use the dispenser instead," said the Rev. Dennis Cohan.

"I'm satisfied with this," he said. "Rather than having people have consternation, it gives people peace."

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is usually a "self-limiting disease," which does not become a chronic infection or chronic liver disease, according to the CDC’s website.