‘A house of germs’: some churches take preventative steps to keep people flu-free

YORK, Pa. -- This flu season, the Department of Health reports more than 25,000 flu cases in Pennsylvania.

Some churches in Central Pennsylvania have felt the impact of the flu, despite taking measures to make sure congregations stay flu-free. 

One church in York lost nearly 30 members for morning mass today all because of the flu.

Another in Lancaster County says its avoided the sickness for the most part, 
possibly because of a unique precaution the church takes every year.
 
Fist bumps and elbow touches replace handshakes during services at Wayside Presbyterian Church in West Hempfield Township.
“Generally speaking, if you were taking pictures of the fellowship, there would be hugging at the beginning of the service. There would be embracing, some shaking of the hands at the end of the service," said Rev. Dr. James Hamer.
 
It’s a change the church adopted a few years ago during flu season, less touching in an effort to lessen the spread of germs.
 
"I’m the only one left standing," said Carla Christopher, a seminarian with Union Lutheran Church in York. 
 
At Union Lutheran Church, Cristopher, a pastor in training, jokes about how empty the church has been all because of the flu.
 
“It is a house of worship and a house of germs…" said Christopher. 
 
The sickness hasn’t discriminated either.
 
“The one person who has to shake everyone’s hands, that has to give hugs when they need it, and pick up kids when they need it - that’s the pastor. Right now, our lead pastor is on round 2 of the flu," said Christopher.
 
Union Lutheran serves the community not only on Sundays but every day of the week, bringing a lot of people and germs into the church.
 
"We have Narcotics Anonymous five days a week. We have a drop in center after school. We have a pre-school that also teaches parenting classes… so we’re used to having a lot of people come into an out of our doors, and we’re big fans of universal precautions," she explained. 
Those precautions include: having sanitizer throughout the church and tissues in every pew and encouraging people to wash their hands and wiping down everything touched by church goers.
If that’s not enough….
 
“Even in service, we said, ‘just give the peace sign instead of touching,' said Christopher. 
Besides peace signs and elbow touches, the Department of Health highly recommends washing your hands with soap and hot water for at least 30 seconds if you’re around people a lot.  Sanitizer helps, but not as much.
 
Last, officials say if you do get sick, stay home. It will help you recover and keep others from getting sick.