SEATTLE - The Catholic Church is now joining the fight to stop the spread of the flu. That involves new recommendations regarding attending Mass, receiving Communion, and offering the sign of peace.

The directive comes from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and is the first of its kind since the H1N1 scare of 2009.

If they're sick, stay home. It's not only for their own benefit but everyone else's, said Father Bill Peterson.

On Friday, he was called in at the last minute to lead Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Parish in Seattle.

The reason?

You guessed it, the priest originally slated for that service came down with the flu.

He says I've got a terrible headache and I just feel awful. I said, 'Well guess what, I think you have what everyone else is getting', said Peterson.

That's just one of the church's new recommendations to both priests and parishioners - stay home if you feel sick.

The U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops is also reminding priests to wash their hands before each mass, and essentially giving parishioners permission not to drink from the communion cup if they feel ill. They're also asked to bow instead of shaking hands when sharing the sign of peace.

The Archdiocese of Seattle is aware of the new recommendations and says the churches in this area are as well.

At this point, they are simply precautionary measures, but could soon become mandatory if more and more flu cases continue to pop up. It's a situation the Archdiocese of Seattle is monitoring every day.

During Friday's mass at Sacred Heart, most parishioner still chose to drink from the communion cup, which was wiped with a napkin between each use.

Father Peterson leades masses at several different catholic churches in this area. He says several of them have already put changes in place, such as reminding the congregation not to sip from the communion cup if they're showing flu symptoms.

We want people here next month to celebrate instead of just the opposite, he said.

KING 5 also checked with several of the Catholic schools in this area to see how they're coping with the flu.

Bishop Blanchet High School is dealing with two different strains right now, and as a result, a lot of absences.

You can find the complete list of health recommendations to keep in mind during Mass onThe Archdiocese of Seattle's website.

There are only three states where the flu isn't currently widespread: Caifornia, Mississippi, and Hawaii. In Washington state, there have been 12 flu deaths so far this season.

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