Peace be with you… from a distance: Flu epidemic has gotten so bad in Maine that churches are shunning practices involving touching, sharing
02/08/2018 // Zoey Sky // Views

Due to the flu season, Catholic churches in Maine have had to "alter their religious practices to reduce the spread of the deadly virus that is ravaging the nation."

Since January, churches have been forbidding worshipers from drinking from the same wine cup during communion and joining hands during prayer. Priests are advised to greet churchgoers verbally instead of shaking their hands.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which covers the entire state of Maine, sent out a memo last month which detailed the restrictions. It reads, "Breaking with custom, parishioners should not shake hands during the Sign of Peace and will be encouraged to offer a verbal greeting, smile, or bow of the head."

It also included instructions for priests, who must disinfect their hands "before and after giving Holy Communion," along with warnings to try and avoid accidentally touching "the tongue or the hand of the communicant." Churchgoers are advised to receive Holy Communion in their hands instead of on the tongue.

The memo mentioned the suspension of wine sharing, except for those required to drink from the cup because of medical issues like Celiac disease. During mass, priests will announce that parishioners who have flu-like symptoms can stay home for their well-being and others. Those who are ill "are not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation," continued the memo.

There were warnings that sponges found in holy water fonts must not be used. The protocol will remain in effect indefinitely.

Except for Hawaii, Maine is among the 49 states where the flu is widespread.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) previously announced that more than 30 children have died from the flu and warned that the virus is "one of the worst on record." Last month, 14,401 people were sick. Hospitalizations went up from 22.7 per 100,000 in the first month of January to 31.5, which is the highest rate since 2010.

People are advised to do what they can to prevent the spread of the virus since the flu is especially dangerous. Even though most people infected with the virus "experience fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue," not everyone experiences the symptoms mentioned. (Related: Protect yourself from flu season with these natural cold remedies.)

Healthcare professionals warn that washing your hands frequently and avoiding close contact with anyone, regardless if they have symptoms or not, can help prevent the spread of the virus.

Dr. Brian Secemsky, an internist based in San Francisco, said, "Supporting one's immune system with good rest and adequate hydration may help reduce the severity of symptoms." He added, "Washing hands often, wearing masks, and staying home from work during periods of fever can help reduce the transmission of the virus."

Natural remedies for the flu

If you're starting to feel some flu-like symptoms, try some of these natural remedies:

  • Cinnamon - Cinnamon has anti-fungal and analgesic properties. Make some cinnamon tea by adding boiling water over the herb into a cup. Drink at least one cup twice or thrice a day.
  • Elecampane - Also known as Inula helenium, elecampane is an herb that can be used for congested coughs. The herb can soothe irritation and relieve coughing. It can also fight infections thanks to its antimicrobial properties. If you have a cold that "leaves you coughing up phlegm with a dry irritated lung and throat," take a tincture of elecampane (at least 1/2–2 milliliter [ml]) thrice a day.
  • Garlic - A known antibiotic, garlic also has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. If you have yellow or green phlegm, consume some garlic. "Highly anti-viral," garlic is immune stimulating, and it can kill any upper respiratory infections. Use garlic as an elixir by pressing or chopping a whole clove. Let the garlic sit for 15 minutes. Once the garlic reacts with air, a chemical reaction turns the clove into a powerful antibiotic.

You can read more articles about disease prevention and natural remedies at

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