Dirty hands likely cause of Long Island hepatitis A outbreak not communion wafers

Anissa Ford's picture

ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor tweeted this morning that that the hepatitis A outbreak from a Catholic church was probably caused by dirty hands.

In Long Island, at least 1,000 people could be infected with hepatitis A after Nassau County health officials linked the outbreak with a Catholic Church on the island.

Christmas Day communion at Our Lady of Lourdes Church has exposed hundreds to hepatitis A. Nassau County Health Department is offering vaccines to anyone who had communion at the church during either service that day.

The Health department has not released the identity of the infected person. The source of the outbreak could have been a priest, a parishioner, a Eucharistic minister or a parishioner.

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver that is commonly caused by viral infection. People catch hepatitis A if the food or water they drink has been contaminated by the virus. Vegetables, shellfish, ice and water are common sources of hepatitis A.

Hepatitis is also contagious when a person comes in contact with the stool or blood of a person who has hepatitis A or if a person with hepatitis A does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and then touches other objects or food.

Every year, there are 100,000 hepatitis A infections in the U.S. Symptoms show up two to six weeks after being exposed.

The Nassau Department of Health estimates that 1,300 people attended Christmas Day masses at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The health department has set up a vaccination booths at the church for today and tomorrow.

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