Staying Healthy during Flu Season
by the Rev. Dr. Maria Evans,
Interim Pastor, Christ Church, Rolla
Although the Missouri Department of Health has not yet issued any advisories, I'm hearing anecdotal evidence throughout the state of a very aggressive gastrointestinal virus (most likely enterovirus or norovirus) that has been affecting people throughout the state with 48-72 hours of marked nausea, vomiting, and low-grade fever.
Please indulge my donning of my "Infection Control Officer" hat to remind all parishes that it's a good idea to offer hand sanitizer in the pews and encourage members to use it liberally!
I've upped my personal handwashing at home and work at the lab. These sorts of viruses are spread through hand to mouth contact.
Our common cup poses relatively little risk because of the alcohol content of our wine and because the silver in the chalice has some bacteriostatic properties; however, hand to hand contact with the bread and at the peace can be implicated in the spread of these sorts of viruses.
I don't wish to be an alarmist, but let's all be super diligent about keeping our hands clean. Studies show that drinking from the cup actually has less risk than hovering hands over the chalice to intinct. Our Eucharistic Ministers are happy to intinct for you upon request if you are unsure of the status of your own hands. If you prefer to avoid the bread entirely because you are immunocompromised, be assured that consuming only one specie of the elements (for instance, only drinking the wine or only eating the bread) still constitutes full and valid participation in the Sacraments.
We should, though, be able to minimize spread of viruses with attention to handwashing and liberal use of hand sanitizer. Common sense is the best prevention!
If you would like to avoid hand-to-hand contact at the peace, we can take a cue from our brothers and sisters in South Sudan and give elbow bumps and forearm bumps a try! Even though we pride ourselves as an inclusive church, let's avoid including viruses as part of our Sunday worship. With God's help, we can avoid "the gift that keeps on giving!"