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Content on this page was developed during the 2009-2010 H1N1 pandemic and has not been updated.

  • The H1N1 virus that caused that pandemic is now a regular human flu virus and continues to circulate seasonally worldwide.
  • The English language content on this website is being archived for historic and reference purposes only.
  • For current, updated information on seasonal flu, including information about H1N1, see the CDC Seasonal Flu website.

Additional Community and Faith-based Organization Action Steps for Gatherings, Meetings, and Programs to Minimize Spread of Flu

November 6, 2009, 2:00 PM ET

Many faith-based and community groups hold services or meetings that bring people together. If the flu is causing more severe disease, CDC and your local health department may suggest that people avoid close contact with others and avoid attending large gatherings, a practice often called social distancing. These measures are intended to slow the spread of flu. Religious traditions and obligations may make it difficult to implement social distancing measures.

However, faith-based and other community groups can do some specific things to help keep their members healthy.

To the extent possible, make decisions in accordance with your state and local health departments recommendation about community gatherings and religious services if there is wide spread flu illness in your community. People should not be discouraged from gathering unless advised by public health officials.

  • Encourage people with flu-like illness to stay home. The spread of flu may be decreased if people with flu-like illness stay home for at least 24 hours after they are free of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications such as Tylenol™, aspirin, or Motrin™.

If there is widespread flu in your community, discuss the risks of attending gatherings for those at high risk for medical complications from flu (such as children, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions) and for those who have not been vaccinated.By avoiding gatherings, these people may reduce their risk of becoming ill with flu. 

Provide alternative options and venues for participation whenever possible for people who are sick, home-bound, or have a higher risk for flu complications and will not be able to attend gatherings. Additional guidance on holding public gatherings, including religious services is available.

Remind participants to cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash after use.  If they don’t have a tissue, they should cough or sneeze into their elbow or shoulder not into their hands.

Make tissues and hand washing facilities with soap and running water widely available during gatherings and religious services.

Remind all participants to wash hands frequently and to wash their hands often with soap and water, especially after they cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand rub can be used.

Reduce crowding as much as possible.

Identify which activities may increase the chance of spreading flu. Work with your local health department to make decisions about changing or limiting these activities to help keep people healthy.

  • People gathering close to one another may increase the risk of spreading the flu
  • Many religious services and community meetings involve a time of greeting or recognition by shaking hands or hugging. Encouraging communication without physical contact and encouraging people to maintain a few feet of distance from each other may reduce the spread of flu in your community.
  • Some religious traditions and rituals emphasize eating and drinking from communal dishes and vessels. Flu may spread in these conditions. If flu is circulating widely in your community, faith and community leaders may consider adjusting such practices in order to reduce the spread of flu. Check with your local or state health department and or the Flu website. 

Make sure children and youth can continue learning while out of school. For example, your organization could:

  • Work with local schools to prepare learning materials, equipment, or books that could be useful for teaching and caring for children at home. Think about using local expertise and resources, like your organization’s library or community members who are trained in education.
  • Make sure students have what they need. Transport books, assignments, and completed work between the classroom and an ill child’s home (and vice versa).

Provide nutritious meals to children normally receiving school lunches. A good resource for creating healthy meals for infants, children, and adults is available.

Talk with your local health department now to determine ways in which your volunteers and facilities might be useful during the response to 2009 H1N1 flu.

Plan for financial impacts associated with the 2009-2010 flu season and 2009 H1N1 flu response.

  • Budget: Consider the impact of the 2009-2010 flu season, 2009 H1N1 flu response, and other unforeseen emergencies that can lead to a shortage of funds.
  • Charitable development strategies: Since many nonprofit organizations rely on community giving to support their activities, consider using alternative means of receiving contributions, such as by mail or the internet.

Read H1N1 flu: A Guide for Community and Faith-based Organizations.

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