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Fargo bishop exposes parishioners to hepatitis A virus

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The Minnesota Health Department has issued a health advisory after the bishop of the Fargo Catholic Diocese exposed hundreds of parishioners at four churches in Fargo and Jamestown to the hepatitis A virus, Forum Communications reports.

Church officials say Bishop John Folda contracted the infection through contaminated food at a conference in Italy, and he may have passed it on to churchgoers through communion in late September and early October. Folda was ordained as the Fargo bishop on June 19, and has been traveling a lot since then, Forum reports.

"He feels terrible about it," Aliceyn Magelky, spokeswoman for the diocese, said. "He did not know when coming back that he had contracted the virus or he would have refrained from participating in Mass much sooner."

Hepatitis A, which can cause liver problems, is often spread through contaminated food or drinks.

"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," Molly Howell, North Dakota Immunization Program manager, said in a news release that lists the specific service dates and locations.

She said that tests are not necessary for anyone who does not show symptoms, which can include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, pale stools and jaundice.

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