Santa Claus should avoid kissing children and shaking their hands to prevent spreading the flu and should get vaccinated against the illness, Hungary's state health authority said.

In a recommendation issued over the weekend and posted on its official website, the authority did not ban traditional Santa Claus activities but warned of increased risks of contagion due to a nationwide flu epidemic.

In Hungary, Santa Claus traditionally comes on December 6, when children find gifts in shoes placed on window sills the night before.

For Santa Clauses, prevention is especially important as they meet lots of children in early December, and therefore they face a high risk of infection, the authority said.

If Santa Claus is elderly, overweight or has a chronic illness, and therefore belongs to a high risk group concerning the flu ... then getting a vaccination against the flu is particularly important, it added.

Hungary's health authorities announced last week that the number of flu cases jumped by 22,100 in a week, partly due to the new H1N1 influenza virus.