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MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Nassau County health officials said Monday that thousands of parishioners at a Massapequa church may have been exposed to hepatitis A on Christmas Day.
The officials told CBS 2′s Sean Hennessey they think it happened at Our Lady of Lourdes Church and the Health Department said those who took communion during the 10:30 and noon masses may have been infected.
“Lots of times you don’t know if you have an illness minor or otherwise like the common cold that you might pass along to somebody,” Jean Cooper told CBS 2′s Hazel Sanchez.
Hepatitis is spread by consuming food or drink handled by someone already infected.
Due to privacy standards, health officials wouldn’t say who the source of the hepatitis A was — whether it was a priest, deacon, or the Eucharistic minister who was handing out communion.
The Health Department will administer vaccines at Our Lady of Lourdes, which has about 7,500 parishioners, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“The first thing we want to tell everybody is do not panic,” Dept. of Health Commissioner Lawrence Eisenstein said, “We’re well within the period that vaccination or Immunoglobulin administration can prevent people who potentially were exposed from contracting the disease.”
Vincent Romeo, who was at the mass, said he plans to get vaccinated but wasn’t “worried about it.”
“I still go to church. I still take my communion,” he said.
Symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, dark-colored urine and jaundice. The disease is rarely fatal and patients generally recover within a few weeks.
The Health Department said if parishioners were infected, they likely have not experienced any symptoms yet. That, they said, was why the vaccine is so critical.