Grand Forks Church Added to List of Possible Hepatitis A Exposur - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Grand Forks Church Added to List of Possible Hepatitis A Exposure

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A church in Grand Forks has been added to the list of churches that may have been exposed to Hepatitis A. The North Dakota Department of Health sent out the updated warning Friday morning.

The notification now includes anyone who attended and received communion at the 10:30 a.m. Mass on September 29 at St. Michael's Catholic Church in Grand Forks. Below is a list of other churches impacted:

  • Holy Spirit Church in Fargo, N.D. on September 27 (school mass)
  • St. James Basilica in Jamestown, N.D. from September 29- October 2 (Priest Convention)
  • Cathedral of St. Mary in Fargo, N.D. on October 6 (Noon Mass) 
  • St. Paul's Catholic Newman Center in Fargo, N.D. on October 7


A catholic diocese spokesperson out of Bismarck tells us tonight that they are not concerned with the situation. Health officials say people who attended several catholic churches in Fargo and Jamestown and had communion may have been exposed to hepatitis A.

The warning goes out to people who attended school mass at holy spirit church in Fargo on September 27th. The priest convention at St. James Basilica in Jamestown from September 29th to October 2nd. The noon service at the cathedral of St. Mary in Fargo on October 6th. Or St. Paul's catholic Newman center in Fargo on October 7th.    

We reached out to the churches, and none of those affected wanted to comment.

But, we spoke with the director of communication at the diocese of Bismarck-- Matthew Kurtz. He mentioned one of the members of the diocese of Fargo does have hepatitis A, but he wouldn't say who. We do know-- the bishop of the Fargo diocese John Folda was in Rome, and he is recovering from an illness.

As serious as this illness is, Kurtz says he's not too concerned about the situation-- people always have a choice to "pass up" drinking from the communal cup if they would like.

Matthew Kurtz- director of communications diocese of Bismarck: "During the h1n1 scare a few years ago, both the diocese of Bismarck and the diocese of Fargo suspended the sign of peace, and the sharing of the communion cup, because there was a serious health concern, but at this time we have no indication to think there is a serious health concern, therefore catholic mass will continue."

The North Dakota Department of Health says that the risk is low, but it's important for people to know what to look for. Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver, it is usually spreads through people who don't wash their hands, or contaminated food.

The most common symptoms include: fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, and abdominal discomfort. If you think you have been exposed visit your doctor. Since it's a virus there isn't a medication that will cure it. The only treatment is supportive care to help with the symptoms.


The North Dakota Department of Health has determined through a case investigation that people who attended the following Catholic churches in North Dakota and had communion on the following dates may have been exposed to hepatitis A virus.

September 27, 2013: Holy Spirit Church in Fargo, N.D. (school mass)

September 29 – October 2, 2013: St. James Basilica in Jamestown, N.D. (priest convention)

October 6, 2013: Cathedral of St. Mary in Fargo, N.D.

October 7, 2013: St. Paul's Catholic Newman Center in Fargo, N.D.

Exposed individuals are encouraged to consult their health-care provider if they develop symptoms. Symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, pale stools, or jaundice (yellowing of skin or the whites of the eyes).

It can take about 15 to 50 days (average is one month) after being exposed to hepatitis A to develop symptoms. Hepatitis A symptoms generally last about two months. If hepatitis A symptoms develop, individuals should exclude themselves from activities for one week after onset of symptoms.

"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," said Molly Howell, Immunization Program manager for the North Dakota Department of Health. "Only people who attended these specific churches and had communion on these dates were possibly exposed to hepatitis A and should be tested if symptomatic. People who were exposed, but do not have symptoms, are not recommended to be tested for hepatitis A."

Hepatitis A virus is found in the stool (feces) of infected people. The virus is most likely to spread when people do not wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing a diaper or soiled sheets, then touch their own mouths, prepare food for others, or touch others with their contaminated hands. A person infected with hepatitis A is most likely to spread the disease during the two weeks before symptoms begin. Most people stop being contagious one week after their symptoms start. 

"Unlike other hepatitis viruses, hepatitis A virus is usually not spread by blood," said Howell. "This situation is not related to the recent hepatitis C cases in Ward County and involves a completely different virus." 

A vaccine is currently available and routinely recommended for all children ages 12 to 23 months. Hepatitis A vaccine is required for child care entry in North Dakota. The vaccine is also available for anyone who wants to be protected from hepatitis A. Hepatitis A vaccine is often recommended prior to traveling outside of the United States. The vaccine is given as two doses over a six month time period. People who have been appropriately vaccinated are considered immune to hepatitis A. 

Hepatitis A can also be prevented by careful hand washing after using the toilet or after diaper changing. Also, infected people should not handle foods during the contagious period. 

For more information, contact Molly Howell, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701.328.2378. 

A fact sheet about hepatitis A can be found at http://www.ndhealth.gov/Disease/Documents/faqs/Hepatitis%20A.pdf.

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