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Flu forces Catholic churches to alter religious practices

The flu has forced Catholic churches in Maine to alter their religious practices to reduce the spread of the deadly virus that is ravaging the nation.

Beginning this weekend, churches will restrict worshipers from drinking from the same wine cup during communion and holding hands during prayer.

Priests have been told to greet churchgoers verbally rather than shake hands and church officials are urging parishioners to stay home if they feel sick.

The protocol will stay in place until this flu season subsides, as it has already killed 21 people in Maine and is one of the worst on record.

Catholic churches in Maine have suspended sharing wine during Holy Communion and holding hands during prayer as the flu has killed 21 people in the state 

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which covers the entire state of Maine, released a memo on Thursday outlining the restrictions.

‘Breaking with custom, parishioners should not shake hands during the Sign of Peace and will be encouraged to offer a verbal greeting, smile, or bow of the head,’ the memo reads. 

They have required priests to sanitize their hands before and after giving Holy Communion and warned them to be ‘cautious not to touch the tongue or the hand of the communicant’.

‘The faithful will be urged, but not required, to receive Holy Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue,’ it reads.  

They added that shared wine is suspended except for those who are required to drink from the cup due to medical issues, such as Celiac disease.  

Priests will announce during mass that if parishioners are feeling ill with flu-like symptoms, to stay home for both their well-being and that of others.

‘When individuals are ill, they are not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation,’ it reads. 


Get a flu vaccine 

  • CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses
  • This flu seasons still has three months to go and the vaccine is especially effective on emerging strains
  • The flu shot can protect you from getting the flu and reduce symptoms if you catch the virus 

Take everyday actions to stop the spread of germs  

  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • CDC recommends staying home for 24 hours if you have flu symptoms 
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water    
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces

Take antiviral drugs prescribed by a doctor  

  • If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat the illness
  • Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics
  • Take the prescription for the entire period as directed by a doctor  

Sponges found in holy water fonts should also not be used. 

The protocol will remain in effect until further notice.

Maine is among the 49 states, excluding Hawaii, where the flu is widespread. 

There have been 21 flu-related deaths in Maine this season.  

The CDC announced today that more than 30 children have died from the flu and warned that the virus is one of the worst on record.

Another 14,401 people got sick this week and hospitalizations have climbed up from 22.7 per 100,000 last week to 31.5 – the highest rate since 2010.

Health officials are urging Americans to get the flu shot as the season still has another three months. 

The vaccine is 30 percent effective at preventing the most common H3N2 strain dubbed the ‘Aussie flu’ that is responsible for the devastating 2014 season.

However it will offer more protection from the new strains, H1N1 and B viruses, emerging in the next few weeks. 

The flu is especially dangerous because while most people suffering from the virus experience fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches and fatigue, not all those infected show symptoms. 

This is why healthcare professionals warn to wash your hands and avoid close contact with anyone, whether they show symptoms or not. 

‘Supporting one’s immune system with good rest and adequate hydration may help reduce the severity of symptoms,’ said San Francisco-based internist Dr Brian Secemsky.

‘Washing hands often, wearing masks, and staying home from work during periods of fever can help reduce the transmission of the virus,’ he added. 

New stats released on Friday show the rate of hospitalizations is soaring, not dipping, as the CDC had hoped

New stats released on Friday show the rate of hospitalizations is soaring, not dipping, as the CDC had hoped