NDSU IN POSSIBLE DANGER OF HEPATITIS A
Bishop at local church comes down with communicable disease
Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 01:10
NDSU faculty and students could be at risk of hepatitis A infection.
Bishop John Folda of Fargo Catholic Diocese was recently infected with the hepatitis A virus. The disease is commonly known for potential liver problems and can be contracted through multiple ways, including through food.
Folda likely contracted the illness during a conference for new bishops in Italy sometime in September. Before symptoms started to arise, Folda gave communion at five churches in eastern North Dakota, including St. Paul’s Catholic Newman Center near the southeast corner of NDSU’s campus.
“I sincerely apologize to the people who may have been exposed to the virus,” Folda said in a statement. “I wish I had known I was ill so I could immediately refrain from participating in public activities. Unfortunately, I had no symptoms immediately following my return and during the events that have been brought to the public’s attention.”
According to a released timeline, Folda came back from his trip from Italy and didn’t feel any symptoms immediately upon return. Once Folda started coming down with flu-like symptoms, he called off any prior engagements and appointments.
On Oct. 11, Folda visited a clinic seeking treatment for his symptoms. During the visit, Folda took blood tests which didn’t receive any immediate diagnosis. Upon further tests the next day, Folda received a hepatitis A diagnosis on Oct. 13 and a notification was sent to all Diocese of Fargo priests. A statement was released to local media five days later. Folda was contacted by the North Dakota Department of Health on Oct. 23 one week after tests came back positive for hepatitis A.
In his statement he issued, Folda said the department took the proper precautionary measures as quickly as possible.
“I want to thank the North Dakota Department of Health for joining with us to bring this information to the public,” he said. “ I feel it is important that our parishioners and the public as a whole be fully aware of the details regarding this virus.”
Threat of Being Infected
According to Mayo Clinic’s website, hepatitis A is a “highly contagious liver infection” which is likely to be contracted through “contaminated food or water or from close contact with someone who’s already infected.” The website claims hepatitis A doesn’t require medical care in mild cases and the illness usually doesn’t cause permanent damage of any kind.
“Hepatitis A has a predilection to attack the liver,” said Dr. Paul Carson, Sanford Health Director of Infection, Prevention and Control in the Fargo region. “Hepatitis A, as a opposed to most of the hepatitides, spreads through the fecal-oral route, meaning you ingest it.”
Carson, who will be teaching at NDSU within a few months, said NDSU could be at risk of infection, though the odds of coming down with hepatitis A is very small. Folda only started realizing his symptoms 19 days after coming back from his trip—a common trait for the disease. This means students at NDSU could carry it without realizing it.
However, Carson explained there hasn’t been any outbreak because there is only one case in the area. He said Folda was one of several cases that brought it from Italy to the United States and that there was only a theoretical potential for risk.
“There have been no secondary cases so far from (hepatitis A),” he said. “In fact, the risk of acquiring that is really quite low. I would frankly be surprised if there were any secondary cases that emerge from it.”
Carson claimed the Center of Disease Control did research on the possibility of spreading any infection through the religious ceremony of communion. The results showed there haven’t been outbreaks of any spread of infectious diseases linked to the ceremony; though Carson said it theoretically it could happen.
“A priest breaking off a piece of bread and giving it to somebody is not a real efficient way to get a lot of virus on anything,” he said. “I think the likelihood of anything happening from that event is really, really low.”
Carson said there is no reported secondary case of hepatitis A in the area. In fact, no secondary cases have been reported from a church leader with hepatitis A giving communion, Carson said.
Carson stressed nobody should be rushing in to receive an immunization. Actually, he said the CDC didn’t find it necessary for those who received communion from Folda to receive treatment.
“The level of risk from this exposure does not meet the Center for Disease Control’s criteria for going out and getting immunized,” Carson said. “For the people who received communion at these churches, it does not rise to the level of risk that we would say they should rush out and talk to their doctor and get immunized.”
Threat At NDSU