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Local Court Ruling Prompts Questions over Public Health

A decision made in Bradford County Court this week by Judge John Mott has one of the principals concerned about potential health risks that may arise from the final settlement of the estate involved.

On Oct. 2, 2002, Amy McKernan Frederick died suddenly from liver failure after suddenly being stricken a little more than two weeks before on Sept. 15. Despite being able to receive a liver transplant as her condition worsened, Amy briefly rebounded and then passed away.

Judge Mott on Tuesday ordered the final settlement of her estate, including releasing numerous belongings. Her father, John McKernan, reported that he brought to the attention of the court that his daughter, according to the autopsy report, had died of a rare strain of hepatitis.

"This is such a rare strain they don't even have a name for it yet," said McKernan, who reported that they are not even sure how it is contracted. "It may be hereditary, they aren't even sure of that, but it is definitely fatal."

McKernan was ordered by the court to bring his daughters possessions, which he says are now sealed, to family members in Wyalusing.

"These items could still be contagious and should be handled with rubber gloves and a mask," said McKernan, "and I expressed my concerns to the judge. I wanted to know who would be responsible."

McKernan said he understands from consulting with the doctor who treated his daughter during her illness, that the virus from this highly contagious liver infection can be passed on years later. Because so little is known about the strain that took his daughter's life, McKernan says nobody can say with certainty whether it is or is not contagious.

"It may be harmless, but what if it puts a lot of people at risk?" he speculated.

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