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Avoiding the Flu

May 4, 2009

USCCB News Release 09-095

       April 29, 2009  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ministers of Holy Communion should wash hands before Mass

Ministers’ use of anti-bacterial gels before, after Communion advised

People feeling ill should avoid receiving Communion from the cup


WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship has posted on the Web a series of 10 questions and answers related to participation at Mass during the time of the swine influenza (swine flu).

The information echoes that published in 2006 at the time of the avian (bird) flu and was developed in conjunction with the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

The 10 questions and answers can be found at

Previously, the Q&A noted, “in those localities where the outbreak of the disease has been the most significant, bishops have introduced several liturgical adaptations in regard to such practices as the distribution of Holy Communion and the Exchange of the Sign of Peace in order to limit the spread of contagion.”

The Q&A also re-emphasized “the need to practice good hygiene” now.

  • “Ministers of Holy Communion should be encouraged to wash their hands before Mass begins, or even to use an alcohol based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion.”
  • The Q&A added that priest, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion ministers “should instruct people who feel ill not to receive from the cup.”

The Q&A also noted that “the need for the introduction of widespread liturgical adaptations for the prevention of the transmission of influenza in the diocese of the United States of America is not evident at this time.”


Please pray for people around the world to exercise appropriate precautions to limit the spread of this and similar illnesses, so that lives may be spared. Also, help others to be aware of how they can help control the spreading of the virus by careful attention to handwashing and other good hygiene practices. The list of ten questions (cited in the article above) includes this one:

Q6. How can the spread of the influenza virus be prevented?

A6. While the single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated, the CDC does not know if the seasonal flu vaccine will protect against the swine flu virus. The CDC recommends these other ways to prevent the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too;
  • stay home when you are sick.
  • If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness;
  • cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick;
  • clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.”

Please read the remaining questions and answers at

You might also be interested in this article, giving perspective about the flu:

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