Priests and parishioners prevent spreading flu during communion

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POSTED: Monday, January 13, 2014 - 10:24pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - 2:33pm

We know the flu can spread from people to people, but what about from steeple to people?

During catholic services, the entire congregation can choose to share a cup, or chalis, of wine for communion.  Because they must drink after one another, it might propose a risk.
Dr. Kevin DiBenedetto at Lake After Hours says,  "[The flu] can occur by contact, like if someone's been coughing and sneezing and you put your hands on them and then you touch your eyes or your mouth or something like that...It's highly contagious."  And while doctors say the alcohol doesn't fully sterilize the cup, clergy says there are steps to keeping the germs at bay.  

"One of the key things, particularly during flu season is people know not to receive from the chalis if they have a cold or anything contagious," said Father Jerry Martin, holding the cup.  "If a person receives from the chalis, we'd simply wipe where the lips have touched, and then rotate the chalis."

Dr. DiBenedetto added, "The lips are on the outside, the alcohol's not there [on the outside of the cup.] Especially if someone is immuno compromised, or elderly, or gets sick easily, they may want to avoid that. [It] is direct contact, and some people don't want to take that chance.

People like Christina Bastien--a woman who is dedicated to her faith, but on the fence about sharing more than just communion.  "I don't usually take it," said Christina,  "Just because i'm concerned about the flu. I don't usually take the blood. If i take holy communion, I don't take it by hands, I take it by mouth, and sometimes the hands of the person touches my mouth, and this is a way germs spread."

Father Martin added, "The priest is going to be the very last one to receive from the chalis and cleansing it, and thank goodness, I have not been any more vulnerable to colds or flus than I was 40 years ago before I was a priest."

But whether or not you decide to take part in the tradition, people we talked to say remember these rules of thumb:  "good handwashing is always a must, remember to cough in the bend of your arm instead of your hands," said Dr. DiBenedetto. Christina added, "I just pray i don't get sick because you can't really do anything about it."

Doctors say if your symptoms are worsening, receive medical attention immediately, as the flu can become very serious. 

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