CATHOLIC churchgoers in Ireland are being advised to avoid receiving Holy Communion bread on the tongue to prevent the spread of influenza.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) has said that receiving the symbolic ‘Body of Christ’ orally “should be discouraged” as flu continues to spread throughout the country.
The warning comes after it was revealed that 55 Irish people have died since the flu season began in December, despite the number of cases decreasing dramatically in recent weeks.
Over 1,700 people have been admitted to hospital for the illness with 920 of them were over the age of 65.
The HSPC added that if bread is placed on the tongues of parishioners, priests and Eucharistic Ministers should clean their hands with alcohol-based hand gel.
They said that the sign of peace in which worshippers shake hands presents a low risk of spreading the virus, but urged unwell churchgoers to stay away from mass until they’re no longer ill.
They advised that the sign of peace can still be continued at mass, but on each occasion the priest should give the congregation an option to offer it without hand contact – such as a smile, nod or bow.
The peak of the flu season is thought to have passed but it will likely be a further nine to 10 weeks before it completely dissipates.