(CNN) -- Exercise caution while you practice devotion.
Health officials in the Philippines are asking -- no, "strongly advising" -- Catholics taking part in Easter self-flagellation rituals this week to first check the condition of their whips before lashing their backs.
Authorities worry that dirty whips could lead to tetanus and other infections, according to a report in the Manila Times newspaper Wednesday.
"We are not trying to go against the Lenten tradition here," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told the newspaper. "But this advice is important to make sure that no one will land in the hospital due to tetanus or other infections that penitents might get in the process."
In many Roman Catholic parts of this southeast Asian country, locals re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday by nailing themselves to wooden crosses or stripping down to their waist and whipping their backs bloody with whips.
The Catholic Church frowns on the practice, but some devotees see it as a way to atone for their sins.
Health officials fret that the acts, carried out recklessly, could lead to tetanus. Hence, their advice to ensure "well-maintained whips."
"Getting deep cut wounds during whippings or lashings is inevitable. And being so exposed during the course of the penitence, with all the heat and dust blowing in the wind, welcomes all sorts of infections and bacteria like tetanus," Duque said.
The Good Friday ritual has become a tourist attraction in several towns around the Philippines. In one city, 23 penitents have signed up to reenact the crucifixion, the newspaper reported. Four penitents plan to have themselves nailed to the cross. E-mail to a friend
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