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New Zealand's Catholic bishops have issued hygiene recommendations for church services in preparation for a swine flu pandemic.

The bishops are stopping parishioners receiving communion wafers on the tongue, communion wine from the chalice and from shaking hands at the sign of peace at masses in New Zealand.

In a statement, the bishops, who are meeting in Palmerston North, said the restrictions were precautionary.

The bishops said they hoped they would not have to take stronger action, and reinforced the need for priests and other clergy working for the church to practise good hygiene procedures.

The number of confirmed swine flu cases in New Zealand is currently 13, but 104 are suspected of being infected.

These include people who have returned from Mexico where dozens of people are thought to have died from swine flu.

- NZPA