I don't know much (or anything) about regular gatherings of religions except for catholic masses but at least in these ones I see many weak points in terms of disease-spreading prevention. For example, before communion everyone recites Our Father while holding their neighbors' hands. Then they give the peace (shake hands with everyone around them) and a little later the go up for the communion. During communion, the priest puts the Host (sacramental bread) on the parishioners' hands, who then proceed to put it in their mouths. Afterwards, they drink the sacred wine from a common cup that is "cleaned" with a piece of cloth after each person that drinks from it. These are four actions that can spread diseases among the parishioners. With H1N1 flu looking like it is easily transmitted I wonder if churches can still provide the spiritual fulfillment to their people while being proactive as far as infection prevention goes. I am sure it is doable; when the "swine flu" first broke in Mexico, churches there encouraged their attendees not to shake hands and when things got worse they actually closed the churches (or any public gathering for that matter) for some time.
Just this past weekend I was talking to a family member about what churches (specifically in the US) will do to reduce the risk of H1n1 flu spreading among their members and now I find this article. Funny and maybe well intentioned (both because it makes an attempt to stop spreading disease and also because by offering "fortified" wine they might increase the number of people that attend, mmm maybe we should do that in science? ha) but will it actually work? Could they just stop doing that particular thing (drinking the wine from a common cup) for a while? At least while scientists figure out how to best combat H1N1?
I've actually been wanting to post about the real advantage (if any) of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (HS) in preventing getting the flu but I am definitely not an expert in virology or communicable diseases and finding good information on journals/books about this has proven more difficult than I thought so I've put it off. Health agencies, on the other hand, seem to be pretty convinced that using HS on a regular basis (if regular hand-washing is not available) is a good idea. Don't get me wrong, I think Health agencies are really trying their best to prevent any more spreading of diseases but I wonder if their suggestion of using HS is because it actually deactivates the virus or just to people are aware and think before putting their hand in their mouth or nose. You'd be surprised as to how effective not touching your face and covering your sneezes and coughs actually is. I will keep looking and will post about it if I do find out.
In the meantime, we should thank the Swedish for providing us with a great reason (excuse) to drink!
Fermilab Accelerator Complex
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