Handshake banned in Northern Ireland churches over ‘Aussie flu’
A Catholic diocese in Northern Ireland received medical advice concerning the increasing risk of Australian flu after 170,000 cases were confirmed at the end of the Australian winter.Updated: Jan 06, 2018 13:24 IST
A Catholic diocese in Northern Ireland has suspended the ‘sign of peace’ handshake in its masses due to the risk of infection from a strain of a flu first discovered in Australia, a media report said on Saturday.
At least 170,000 cases were confirmed at the end of the Australian winter, more than twice as many as in 2016. According to health officials, there 72 flu-related deaths, the Guardian report said.
The H3N2 virus, which is also referred to as Australian flu or Aussie flu, has spread across the UK and Ireland.
A statement form the office of bishop Noel Treanor said: “Having received medical advice concerning the increasing risk and impact of Australian flu, the diocese of Down and Connor has decided to reactivate precautionary measures originally established by the diocese in response to the swine flu epidemic in 2009.
“The customary sign of peace handshake exchanged during mass is suspended until the risk of infection is significantly reduced... Other provisions will be made for those who suffer from a coeliac condition, such as separate chalices.”
The diocese’s statement also paid tribute to those working within the medical field, acknowledging that “hospitals across Northern Ireland are currently experiencing high numbers of patient admissions of those suffering from respiratory illnesses directly linked to the flu virus”, reports the Guardian.
UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the H3N2 virus is straining resources at the National Health Services.
“It’s too early to say whether we are going to experience what they experienced in Australia. But that has undoubtedly created extra pressures on the system.”