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Published September 26, 2009, 09:56 PM

Keeping the flu out of churches

Area churches are taking precautions to protect congregations from the H1N1 flu virus.

By: Joel Porter, WDAZ

The H1N1 virus is spreading around the U-S, and the CDC says large gathering places are potential hot spots for the virus.

Now, the Minnesota Health Department wants all churches in the state to take precautions.

Church members gather every Sunday in groups of hundreds and even thousands under one roof.

But as people join together, church leaders say they want to make sure people are spreading faith, not germs.

Joel Porter/ WDAZ News: Tomorrow morning, as the Sacred Heart congregation gathers for mass, there'll be more than just faith on Father Larry Delaney's mind. He's also conscious of keeping everyone safe.

Father Larry Delaney/ Sacred Heart Catholic Church: Over the last 6-7 years have already asked our people who help distribute to help sanitize their hands before they distribute communion, but we'll take further measures this year.

Joel Porter/ WDAZ News: The National Catholic Bishops Conference recently sent Delaney and other parishes around the state a letter, which reminded them to be vigilant against the H1N1 flu virus. Delaney plans to address the issue at the end of tomorrow's service.

Father Larry Delaney/ Sacred Heart Catholic Church: We'll start doing that next Sunday and then we'll continue it for sure through the next flu season and then see how it goes.

Joel Porter/ WDAZ News: The church will offer hand sanitizer at every entrance. Delaney also says parishioners don't have to shake hands or drink from the communion chalice.

Father Larry Delaney/ Sacred Heart Catholic Church: If they don't want to shake hands, just to do a little bow to each other or do a little hand wave just something as a sign of peace at that point.

Joel Porter/ WDAZ News: Delaney says he wants church goers to be respectful of one another, but he doesn't want to turn anyone away at the door. He simply adds that anyone too sick to attend or those who have symptoms of the virus are asked to stay home on Sunday.

Father Larry Delaney/ Sacred Heart Catholic Church: With those that actually get the flu, we'll encourage people not to attend, as a safety measure for the rest of the people in the congregation, not to come and thus have the potential of spreading disease.

Delaney says at this point, there's no need to be concerned about drinking from the communion cup.

However, the Minnesota Council on Faith and Community Service Initiatives is recommending that people avoid it while the risk remains high.