Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is the Swine Flu Really That Big a Deal? And What is Your Parish Doing About It?

Mitchell here.

Has your parish curtailed Communion on the tongue for fear of the H1N1 flu? Has the chalice been done away with during Communion? Have you been told to substitute a polite nod for a handshake at the Sign of Peace? (Actually, I have to agree on that last one.) In short, are you surrounded by signs suggesting that those around you have succumbed to the hysteria about the flu?

Here in the Twin Cities, the Archdiocese issued a set of guidelines some time ago concerning the flu, which in my un-PC way I'm going to simply refer to as "swine" flu. Among the highlights was point number 5, and I quote: "Reception of the Blessed Sacrament in the hand is the best way to reduce the possibility of flu virus transmission." This has been taken by some as a sign to eliminate reception on the tongue, or at least to make you feel darn guilty about it. (One priest actually told his congregation that it would be "an act of Christian charity" to take Communion in the hand.) Many parishes have reprinted the guidelines in their weekly bulletins, some even bolding point number 5.

Now, if you're like me - that is, somewhat skeptical about this whole flu hysteria - you might be interested in this piece from National Review Online about what it calls the "phony" flu crisis. I found particularly interesting this section:

What’s truly unprecedented about this swine flu is its incredible mildness. The CDC estimates seasonal flu annually kills 36,000 Americans, again spread over four months. That compares to 4,000 swine-flu deaths in the current cycle. The seasonal-flu death rate therefore ranges from 0.06 percent to 0.24 percent, while the CDC estimate puts it at only 0.0182 percent for swine flu. So seasonal flu is three to twelve times deadlier per case.

And then there was this:

Even more telling, though, is that the bottom has fallen out of new infections. Test samples doctors have submitted to CDC-monitored surveillance laboratories went from 26,000 two weeks ago to 21,000 last week to just 13,000 at present. Further, progressively fewer of those samples have actually shown flu. Overall, the number of positive samples has plunged over 60 percent in just two weeks.

The fact is, seasonal flu is three to twelve times deadlier than swine flu. But since swine flu spreads easier, it's pushing the seasonal flu out of the way. The author's conclusion: "Swine flu, therefore, prevents more flu deaths than it causes."

You might want to let that sink in for awhile. And while you're at it, if you know anyone in your parish who's a real germophobe, you might share this link with them.

How about you? Are you concerned that this could be a subtle attempt to eliminate Communion on the tongue all together? Let us know if you've experienced any efforts to change the way Communion is distributed in your parish. At the very least, I think Catholics in the Twin Cities deserve to know where they can go to receive Communion in a reverent fashion without being sent on a guilt trip.
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