Thus far, two U.S. bishops have been diagnosed with the hepatitis A virus after attending a school for new bishops in Rome last month.
The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that Bishop John Folda of the diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, was diagnosed with the virus after coming down with flu-like symptoms. The virus, which is rarely deadly but can cause severe liver problems, is transmitted through exposure to an infected person or through contaminated food.
Rocco Palma of the popular blog Whispers in the Loggia, is reporting that the culprit may be a batch of berries served during the conference.
Also infected is Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of the diocese of Tyler, Texas, who was ordained last November but attended the Rome conference which was held on September 10-19.
The health of both bishops is said to be improving, but warnings are being issued to any congregations where they may have celebrated Mass and exposed people to the virus through the Precious Blood.
“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,” State Immunization Program Manager Molly Howell said in a statement last week.
According to the AP, symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, pale stools or jaundice. These symptoms can take up to 50 days to appear after exposure. Only people who develop symptoms are being asked to contact their doctor; otherwise, it is not necessary to get tested.
Terry Pennebaker of Fargo who was exposed at a Mass celebrated by Bishop Folda, told WDAY TV that she’s not concerned.
“We pray for (Folda), and I’m not too worried about getting hepatitis,” she said.
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