St. Francis

Office of Risk Management

No. 2018-04


Heightened Flu Activity


January 20, 2018       



This year’s influenza virus is the most widespread outbreak since public health authorities began keeping track more than a dozen years ago, according to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). The most dominant flu strain infecting people this season is H3N2. A similar strain called H1N1 was responsible for the 1918 flu pandemic, and the 2009 "swine flu" outbreak. Because people have had less exposure to H3N2 up until now, populations have not had time to build up immunity and thus more people are becoming ill with the virus.


Scientists think this season’s flu vaccine may only be about 30 percent effective against H3N2. However, the CDC strongly recommends influenza vaccination for all persons 6 months of age and older. There is still time to get a flu shot if you haven’t done so already. Call your health care provider or visit a local pharmacy that offers flu vaccinations.


Liturgical Directives


The Office of Worship, in consultation with local health authorities, continues to encourage the clergy and faithful to observe necessary standard precautions to protect the health of others during this flu season. The best way to prevent the spread of contagious diseases is to practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands frequently with soap and water. In addition, the Cardinal directs the following for the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy and for flu prevention:


  • Holy water fonts are to be drained, cleaned with disinfecting soap, and re-filled with holy water on a regular basis. Please note that old holy water should be disposed of in the sacrarium.


  • The distribution of the Precious Blood for the faithful is suspended, with the exception of those who must receive from the cup due to medical reasons. The faith of the Church teaches that Christ, whole and entire, is received even under only one species.


  • The exchange of the Sign of Peace is to be offered without any physical contact. If the priest celebrant chooses to extend the invitation for the sign of peace, the faithful, instead of a handshake, may bow to the persons nearby.


  • While the faithful retain the option of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand, all ministers of Holy Communion are advised to distribute the consecrated hosts with care, being cautious not to touch the tongue or the hand of the communicant. Ministers should also wash their hands before Mass in preparation for the distribution of consecrated hosts.


  • Parishioners should be reminded that if they are ill or suspect they are ill with a contagious illness, they are not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation. They should remain at home and return to church when they are well.


Recommendations for Schools


During the H1N1 pandemic, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health updated its recommendations to help prevent the spread of the virus in Massachusetts’ schools and child-care settings. The Office of Risk Management recommends that the guidelines be applied to this flu season:


  • Each morning, all parents/caregivers should assess all family members and especially all school-age children for symptoms of influenza (fever plus cough, sore throat or runny nose) or other symptoms, such as vomiting or diarrhea that might be influenza.


  • Each morning all school staff should assess themselves for symptoms of influenza.


  • Students or staff with influenza-like illness (fever plus cough, sore throat or runny nose) should stay home and not attend school. All sick students and staff should stay out of school for at least 7 days even if their symptoms resolve sooner. In addition, students and faculty who are showing symptoms should stay home from school until at least 24 hours after they have completely recovered.


  • School nurses and student health centers should report higher than normal absenteeism to your local health department or to the MDPH at 617-983-6800, as well as to the Office of Risk Management (627-746-5740) or Catholic Schools Office (617-779-3601).


Symptoms of Influenza


Sudden onset of: Fever Loss of Appetite Nausea/Vomiting Coughing Diarrhea Muscle aches, fatigue Sore throat Runny nose



CDC General Prevention Guidelines


In addition to the flu vaccination, there are other important precautions you can take to help prevent the spread of the disease:


  • Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.


  • If you get the flu, stay home. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.


  • Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.


  • Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.


  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.


  • Practice other good health habits. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.


Website Resources


During flu season, detailed reports about influenza in Massachusetts are posted weekly on the Massachusetts Public Health Blog at


For additional information:


David Huskins, 617-746-5742,


Catholic Schools Office, 617-779-3601