The health of hundreds of East Texans could be at risk because of something that happened while they were at church.
Bishop Joseph Strickland was one of two American bishops to contract Hepatitis A during a recent conference in Rome.
The Diocese of Tyler is asking East Texans who attended mass and received communion from Bishop Strickland to monitor themselves for symptoms of the virus.
Bishop Strickland returned from new bishop school in Rome just last month and reportedly, did not feel sick at all.
"He was fine, he went around, he visited the parishes and the schools, feeling fine and then after about 10 days or so, he began to experience flu like symptoms. He thought he had the flu, and then he went to the doctor and he got tested and the results were Hepatitis A," explained Vicar General Bishop Edmond Carmodywith the Diocese of Tyler.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that symptoms of Hepatitis A, a liver disease, can occur two to seven weeks after coming into contact with the virus.
Bishop John Folda at St. Michael's Catholic Church who also attended the conference, returned home feeling well and continued with his daily routines, therefore unknowingly, putting others at risk.
"I'd rather cut off my arm than deliberately pass this on to anybody. I just wasn't sick at the time I was attending these events," he reported an ABC affiliate.
Which is the same thing that seems to have happened to Bishop Strickland.
"The diocese covers a very large area, it covers 33 counties and there are 68 churches in that 33 county area and he is in charge of all of them," Bishop Carmody explained.
"We're talking a thousand people have received communion from him, thousands of people have been in contact with him, you know, so we are talking about a very large group," Bishop Carmody said.
After the bishop's diagnosis, the Diocese of Tyler confirmed they notified all of the schools and parishes that Bishop Strickland visited, warning them of the symptoms they should look out for.
Bishop Carmody said he will be filling Bishop Strickland's duties until he is no longer contagious and feeling much better. He said that could be at least another month.
The Northeast Texas Public Health District said the numbers in TExas are low because children have been receiving immunizations for some time now.
According to a map from the Texas Department of Health Services, last year, there were only four counties in all of East Texas with a confirmed case.
However, the Northeast Texas Public Health District said it is protocol to investigate Hepatitis A cases. They said at this point, they do not have a whole lot of details, but said this investigation is ongoing.
Both bishops believe they contracted the virus after eating contaminated fruit. The Diocese of Tyler believes after serving communion to thousands of East Texans, they may be at risk of catching it as well.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people can get Hepatitis A by having close contact with a person who is infected and by eating or drinking something prepared by someone infected.
The Diocese of Tyler wants those who the bishop visited following his trip to Rome, to watch for the following symptoms: feeling tired, muscle soreness, upset stomach, fever and loss of appetite.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should visit your doctor.
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