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Religion in the age of swine flu

Things aren’t looking good for religious worship. Official Iranian news agency Fars has reported that two pilgrims recently returned from the Hajj have contracted swine flu. Mecca plays host to about two million Muslims every year including nearly 12,000 from the United States and 25,000 from the United Kingdom, both of whom top the World ...

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Things aren’t looking good for religious worship.

Official Iranian news agency Fars has reported that two pilgrims recently returned from the Hajj have contracted swine flu. Mecca plays host to about two million Muslims every year including nearly 12,000 from the United States and 25,000 from the United Kingdom, both of whom top the World Health Organization’s table of reported swine flu cases. Fears about the rapid spread of the pandemic during the Hajj have prompted swift action from countries across the Middle East, which have as yet reported relatively few cases. Saudi Arabia has already put in place facilities at its major airports to quarantine pilgrims suspected of carrying the H1N1 virus.

Meanwhile in England, the Bishop of Chelmsford has advised that churches remove holy water which, when exposed in stoups, can easily become a source of infection. Revered John Gladwin recommended that parishioners exhibiting flu-like symptoms should stay at home where possible, and priests who must make pastoral visits “wear sterile gloves, an apron and a face mask.” He also said those taking holy communion should not drink wine from the chalice if ill, and would still receive the full communion by taking the wafer of bread alone.

Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty images

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