Catholic directive to churchgoers aims to curb flu spread

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Church officials in New Mexico and Pennsylvania are telling Catholic parishioners to refrain from touching others during mass to help avoid spreading the flu, according to U.S. News & World Report.

In New Mexico, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe said parishioners should not hold hands during prayer and nod during the sign of peace as opposed to shaking hands or hugging.

The archdiocese also encouraged anyone who is experiencing flu-like symptoms to watch a televised Sunday Mass from home.

"It is not a sin to miss Mass on Sundays if you are ill," the archdiocese stated. "These directives will be revoked when the situation improves."

In a similar effort, the diocese of Allentown, Pa., is suspending the exchange of handshakes as a sign of peace and sipping wine from the communal chalice during Holy Communion in its 84 parishes.

Flu has sickened 6 million to 7 million people in the U.S. in the current season, and 69,000 to 84,000 people have been hospitalized by the bug, according to CDC estimates released Jan. 11.

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