Local Churches Implement Swine Flu Precautions

| September 20, 2009

MILWAUKEE — Most places of worship have started to take certain precautions regarding swine flu to make the congregation feel a little more secure.

Big crowds can mean unknown germs and, these days, the possibility of swine flu. While houses of worship may be sacred, they’re not exempt from it. Worship can mean the illness is lingering on door handles, in pews and on hymnals.

At St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the rector said there were two main concerns when parishioners come for Sunday services.

“One has to do with the passing of the peace. The other has to do with communion,” the Rev. Steve Teague said.

He noticed some parishioners started to skip communion.

“I found out they were afraid of touching the wafer or bread after I had touched it,” Teague said.

Hand sanitizer is now used before communion. Some wafers are offered on a plate that never touched a human hand, and the chalice is turned and wiped before each use.

When it comes to greeting each other additional measures can be followed.

“If you just want to wave, or touch someone on their clothing, perhaps that would feel safer,” Teague said.

St. Alphonsus Catholic church in Greendale began taking similar measures, according to the Rev. Alan Jurkus. The Milwaukee Archdiocese sent out hygiene guidelines regarding communion. Precautions were also being taken at the church’s school.

“Cleaning the classrooms, the desks, having hand sanitizers, having a quarantine room for kids who are coming down with symptoms,” Jurkus explained.

A plan was also created in case the flu hits church staff. Jurkus and the associate pastor have already worked out how the mass schedule would work if either of them became sick.

“I can take his masses if he’s ill. He can take mine,” Jurkus said. “There’s no bubble, there’s no bubble, so I think what we’re trying to do is minimize the best we can."

Both churches are hoping their parishioners will feel as comfortable as possible when they come to worship.

If someone does become sick, however, both churches want their parishioners to know it is OK to stay home. They believe it’s better to stay home than to spread germs to the rest of the congregation.



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Category: Public Health

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