Swine Flu: Changing the Way People Worship

Most seek solace in religion, but fears of swine flu are limiting contact between clergy, parishioners and canceling out some religious rites and ceremonies all together.

Soon after the H1N1 swine flu pandemic started in the spring, many U.S. Christian churches announced they would no longer require parishioners to share the “sign of peace,” which involves shaking hands with one another, nor would they offer the shared cup of wine at Masses, symbolizing the blood of Christ.

A similar movement has started overseas.

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In London, Anglican priests have suspended the practice of giving wine during communion and are avoiding placing the wafer — symbolizing the body of Christ — on the tongues of worshippers. The idea is not just to stop the virus locally, but globally.

"In developing countries where people aren't use to the flu virus this is really serious. And so by preventing the spread here we may be assisting developing countries to prevent the spread there,” said the Very Rev. Colin Slee Dean, an Anglican priest based in London.

About 100,000 people across the U.K. have been infected with swine flu.

The Muslim community is also trying to raise awareness of swine flu. Health officials in Saudi Arabia, for example, have suggested the sick and elderly avoid traveling to the Hajj this year.

In Israel, some Orthodox Jews have broken with tradition and are no longer drinking from the same glass of wine.

Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization say the worst is yet to come, some health experts believe the virus might not be as devastating as once feared.

"This time, with this virus … the swine H1N1 virus, I don't think it's going to go into the community and kill like the previous ones have, said Professor John Oxford, a virologist with Queen Mary College in the U.K.

Kitty Logan from FOX News Channel's London bureau contributed to this story.