TYLER (KYTX) - The Diocese of Tyler is asking parishioners to be aware of symptoms of hepatitis a after Bishop Joseph Strickland was infected with the illness after a two week long trip to Rome.
Bishop Strickland along with other Bishops across the globe went to "Bishops School" back in September. It's a type of orientation for new Bishops.
It's believed he contracted hepatitis a by eating contaminated berries. In Rome, many people have been getting sick from the contaminated berries. Hepatitis a isn't typically fatal however you can get very sick and it's contagious.
Bishop Strickland's parking spot is empty and it's been that way since he was diagnosed with hepatitis a.
"There's always that fear and there's always that dangers, as soon as he was diagnosed as having hepatitis a he totally withdrew from any public activity," said acting Diocese of Tyler Bishop Edmond Carmody.
He said Strickland was not aware of his exposure until he got sick, and got medical help in mid-October
"He knows we're praying for him go back to doing the Lord's work, " said Carmody.
Strickland along with one other Bishop from North Dakota contracted the virus on the trip to Rome.
"We have experienced a very low rate of hepatitis in our population," said George Roberts with NetHealth.
He said in Texas cases are low primarily due to the large amount of people that get vaccinated and health standards, such as requiring restaurant employees to wash their hands.
Although Strickland stopped interacting with the public on September 26th when he first started feeling ill, he had been back at work since September 20th. That means there was a window of time in which people could have been exposed to the illness he contracted in Rome.
Hepatitis is not an airborne illness. You can get it by exposure to an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or drink.
Nethealth said the chance of getting it by drinking after someone who's infected is minimal. Since Drink is shared in the Catholic Religion for communion, some may be concerned.
"is it risky to share that cup? Well the risk is low, but it's still a risk," said Roberts.
Due to the risk, the diocese wants parishioners to get help if they experience flu like symptoms.
In the meantime, diocese parishioners are keeping Bishop Strickland in their prayers.
"We need him back and it would be a great joy to have him back have our bishop here with us," said Carmody.
Health specialist said, the big thing for Americans when it comes to keeping this illness at bay is to wash your fruits, vegetable and your hands.