Churchgoers have been told not to dip wafers into Holy Communion wine to avoid the spread of flu.
Right Reverend David Walker, who is Bishop of Manchester, has urged worshipers not to soak the wafer, which represents the body of Jesus Christ, into wine, which symbolises his blood.
As well as spreading infection, Reverend Walker is also concerned about some churchgoers reacting to gluten in the bread.
Churchgoers have been told not to dip wafers into Holy Communion wine to avoid flu (stock)
‘When a wafer is given into the hands of a communicant it may become contaminated by germs lying on the skin,’ Reverend Walker said.
‘Intincting the wafer then introduces those germs directly into the wine.’
Reverend Walker also voiced concerns a worshiper’s fingertips may accidentally dip into the wine and spread germs.
‘Should a communicant not wish to drink from the chalice, perhaps through having a heavy cold, then he or she may be assured that to receive the sacrament in one kind alone – bread or wine – is to receive the sacrament in its entirety,’ he told The Times.
Reverend Walker also noted that while gluten-free bread is available at some services, dipping traditional wafers into wine may cause gluten contamination.
Holy communion is more common in Eastern Orthodox churches but also takes place in some Church of England parishes.
The Church of England suspended offering a communal goblet of wine during the 2009 flu epidemic and instead recommended worshipers dip wafers into the liquid.
Certain churches have also previously stopped the tradition of asking attendees to shake hands or even embrace in ‘exchanging the peace’.
Sharing drinks causes a small amount of saliva to be exchanged, which can be rich in viruses if someone is battling the flu.
Drinking from the same cup or sharing cutlery with an infected person is a recognised way flu spreads. The virus can even survive on metal surfaces, such as goblets, for more than 24 hours.
Worse still, someone may be contagious up to a day before they develop symptoms.
Elderly people and pregnant women are among the most at risk of dangerous flu complications, which can include pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis and brain inflammation.
Flu is also a very common infection in babies and children, who may require hospital treatment, with some even dying from the infection.
This comes after news released last month revealed millions of at-risk patients have yet to get their flu jab this winter because of delivery problems to GP practices.
Just 33.8 per cent of over-65s had been vaccinated, compared to 53.7 per cent this time last year, according to a Public Heath England national flu report.
THE FLU SEASON OF 2017/18 AND WHY IT WAS SO SEVERE
The rocketing number of flu cases in the UK and across the world was put down to a surge in four aggressive subtypes that attacked the population simultaneously.
One included the so-called ‘Aussie flu’, a strain of influenza A which triggered triple the number of expected cases in Australia during the country’s winter.
Experts feared the virulent H3N2 strain, which reached the UK, could prove as deadly to humanity as the Hong Kong flu in 1968, which killed one million people.
Another was a strain of influenza B, called Yamagata and dubbed ‘Japanese flu’, which was blamed for the majority of cases during the UK’s winter.
Its rapid spread raised concerns because it was not covered in a vaccine given to the elderly. However, experts claim it was less severe.
Usually, just one subtype, of either influenza A or B, is responsible for the majority of cases. The bug spreads easily in the cold weather.