01/11/08 — O'Berry gets hepatitis all-clear; reschedules celebration

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O'Berry gets hepatitis all-clear; reschedules celebration

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 11, 2008 1:45 PM

Concern over possible cases of hepatitis at O'Berry Center has been lifted, with a community festival originally scheduled at Christmastime now being planned for next week.

On Thursay, officials at O'Berry said completion of the testing revealed "that there was absolutely no reason to be concerned, that there was no clinical or laboratory evidence of active Hepatitis A" at the center.

Dr. Scott McConnaughey, deputy director of health services, said a thorough investigation had been done to determine if there was any cause for alarm.

Last month's annual Community Christmas Extravaganza, scheduled for Dec. 15, was cancelled the day before after several residents turned up positive for Hepatitis A antibodies. Routine testing done earlier in the month raised questions, prompting officials to cancel the public event.

While no resident or staff member exhibited signs of hepatitis, it was too close to the community event to take a chance, Dr. Frank Farrell, hospital director said at the time.

With an estimated crowd of 1,500 expected to attend, officials opted to err on the side of caution.

"The unfortunate thing was the timing," McConnaughey said. "We couldn't complete the investigation prior to the extravaganza so could not hold it with complete confidence."

There are a variety of strains of hepatitis, and not all are considered life-threatening, he added.

"This is a viral infection that about a third of the population carries protective antibodies, and that happens to be what we discovered here," he explained. "As a result of this, we're going to be undertaking an education program here for the staff, our clients and the guardians, and offering vaccinations as appropriate to any health care workers."

As for the Community Christmas Extravaganza, it has been renamed WinterFest and rescheduled for Jan. 17. The public is invited to the free event, which begins at 7 p.m. and culminates with fireworks at 8:40.

"It will be slightly different," noted Jennifer Donica, habilitation supervisor at O'Berry and one of the event's organizers. "Instead of a Christmas theme, it will be a winter theme. We'll still have all the entertainment and goodies that we had planned."

In addition to school and church groups performing in the park, there will be food and activities for the young at heart, said Dennis Mays, coordinator of professional services.

"We encourage people to come and have a relaxed evening with their families," he said.