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U.S. bishops issue ‘adaptations’ for swine flu outbreak
By United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

Washington D.C., May 3, 2009 / 02:25 am (CNA).- Responding to reports of the spread of swine flu, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released a brief statement on “liturgical adaptations” to be considered in the event of influenza outbreak. However, the statement says the need for such changes is “not evident at this time.”

The statement, from the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship, repeats information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on the nature and spread of swine flu. The CDC recommends that the healthy should avoid close contact with those who are sick, while the sick should keep their distance from others and stay home.

“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,” the CDC advises.

The USCCB statement reports that in previous significant outbreaks, bishops introduced several “liturgical adaptations” concerning the distribution of Holy Communion and the exchange of the Sign of Peace to “limit the spread of contagion.”

Priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should be “especially reminded” of the need to practice good hygiene, by washing their hands before Mass or using an alcohol-based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion.

“They should instruct people who feel ill not to receive from the cup,” the statement says.

Noting that the diocesan bishop should always be consulted regarding changes or restriction of options in the celebration of the liturgy, the statement reports that the Secretariat of Divine Worship “will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide the best advice possible to Diocesan Bishops and their Offices for Worship.”

“The Secretariat likewise appreciates whatever information Diocesan Offices for Worship are able to provide concerning local conditions and the pastoral responses developed by Diocesan Bishops.”

The USCCB statement closes with a notice that continuously updated information is available from the CDC at http://www.CDC.gov/swineflu

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