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Texas churches help congregants avoid the flu

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm •  Published: January 20, 2013

Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, chief of pediatric infectious Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children's Medical Center, noted that someone can be contagious for a day or so before developing symptoms.

"It certainly makes a lot of sense during flu epidemics to limit the amount of contact between individuals," Kahn said.

Annette Gonzales Taylor, director of communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas, said the diocese has sent out recommendations for priests for the flu season, urging them to wash their hands frequently, use soap and hot water to clean the communion chalice and have those who serve the communion use hand sanitizer.

In the San Angelo diocese, which covers 29 counties in West and Central Texas, Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer said he hasn't received any complaints about his advice that parishes stop using a shared chalice during communion. He took the same step during the swine flu epidemic of 2009.

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas in Houston, which represents an area sprawling from Houston to Austin, is using social media and emailed newsletters to encourage parishioners to follow basic medical advice, including frequently washing hands, said spokesman Luke Blount.

"It's of course something that we're always mindful of," said Jimmy Grace, an episcopal priest at Christ Church Cathedral in Houston. "We have hand sanitizers around cathedral."

And while the church hasn't changed its process for communion, Grace said parishioners can decide not to drink from the shared cup.

And, he said, "They know that if they're not feeling well, they're not going to be coming to church."


Associated Press writer Diana Heidgerd contributed to this report.