JACKSONVILLE — Some area churches are suspending the distribution of consecrated wine at Communion services in an attempt keep the flu virus in check.
According to a Jan. 9 memo from the Diocese of Tyler – of which Jacksonville's Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Rusk's Sacred Heart Church and Venerable Antonio Margil Mission in Alto are a part – Bishop Joseph Strickland directed Catholic churches in East Texas to “take precaution during the reception of the Holy Eucharist” during daily and weekend Masses and suspended the reception of consecrated wine.
“Communion is only to be given in the species of the consecrated bread,” he advised.
Cherokee County Public Health executive director Chris Taylor said Bishop Strickland's measure “truly demonstrates that public health (awareness) is everywhere, and is the responsibility of all of us.”
At present, “influenza and influenza-like illness are very serious (and) widespread in Texas and in other places across the country,” he noted, pointing out that “several things are plaguing health officials around the state” about these cases.
“This year's virus is causing severe symptoms in people that are much younger and healthier (compared to previous flu seasons). Typically, the flu and ILI are worse on the elderly and the very young, along with those that are immuno-compromised. But this season, we are seeing the illness cause severe distress in people who range in age from 15 to 50, even some deaths of people in those age groups,” he said.
Additionally, he has learned from health colleagues throughout the state that these severe symptoms have overloaded hospitals “with patients on ventilators in Intensive Care Units, among other unique influenza related activities, that are usually rare during flu season,” Taylor said.
Thankfully, he added, “we have not seen a death in Cherokee County as of yet (although) Tyler is now reporting multiple flu deaths, as have other areas around us. We are however, aware of hundreds of cases of confirmed influenza within the county, including the subtype that has hospitalized people around the state.”