In the wake of the current flu epidemic, several United States Dioceses have issued precautionary guidelines to avoid parishioners spreading or coming into contact with the flu virus while attending Mass. Under these guidelines, parishes are being advised to skip the sign of peace temporarily and exchange a verbal greeting instead of the traditional handshake. Other measures include suspending distribution of the Precious Blood from a common cup during Communion. Extraordinary Ministers of Communion are also being advised to wash their hands before Mass and avoid touching the hand or tongue of each communicant.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current flu season is approaching the peak of the 2009 pandemic, with a high hospitalization rate and more than 53 pediatric deaths so far. The CDC says all U.S. states, except Hawaii and Oregon, are reporting widespread flu, and the number with a high incidence of flu-like illness has risen to 42, plus New York City and the District of Columbia.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is also advising Catholics who have the flu to stay home and not attend Sunday Mass.