Hundreds of church-goers in N.D. exposed to Hepatitis A

Hundreds of Catholic church-goers in North Dakota may have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus while taking communion in recent weeks.

North Dakota Department of Health officials say a person who was infected with the virus participated in services and touched communion wafers at four churches in Fargo and Jamestown in late September and early October.

Immunization Program manager Molly Howell said if the person didn't use good hand-washing practices, the virus could have been spread to parishioners.

"We do think that there is a low risk of transmission," Howell said. "We're just being overly cautious and want to notify people who may have had communion, if they develop symptoms, to go in and be tested."

Hepatitis A is found in the stool of infected people and is usually spread by contaminated hands.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, dark urine and jaundice. Most people recover within a few weeks or months, but in rare cases the virus can cause fatal liver damage.

Howell said it can take 15 to 50 days after exposure for symptoms to develop. She people who contract the virus can feel sick for some time.

"This isn't something that lasts just a couple of days," she said. "It would be a prolonged illness that can even last as long as two months."

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