One of the things I love the most about the United Methodist Church is connexionalism. Whether it is down the street or across the globe, United Methodist are there to show our love through our deeds and actions. To those of us in the Dallas area, there is no better time than now to show how connected we are to our brothers and sisters from West Africa (as well as any part of the African continent for that matter).
With the first confirmed diagnosis of Ebola here in Dallas, the need to remain calm and not create stigma toward a burgeoning part of our congregations is a vital conversations all of our churches should be starting now.
The greatest tool against stigmatization is relevant and reliable information. Here is some from the Center for Disease Control:
Symptoms of Ebola include
- Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)Recovery from Ebola depends on the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.
- Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
Because the natural reservoir host of Ebola viruses has not yet been identified, the manner in which the virus first appears in a human at the start of an outbreak is unknown. However, researchers believe that the first patient becomes infected through contact with an infected animal.
When an infection does occur in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways to others. Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with
- blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
- objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
- infected animals
- Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats.If you travel to or are in an area affected by an Ebola outbreak, make sure to do the following:
- There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola.
- Practice careful hygiene. Avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
- Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.
- Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
- Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals.
- Avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities.
- After you return, monitor your health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of Ebola(http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/symptoms/index.html).
- Healthcare workers who may be exposed to people with Ebola should follow these steps:
- Wear protective clothing, including masks, gloves, gowns, and eye protection.
- Practice proper infection control and sterilization measures. For more information, see “Infection Control for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers in the African Health Care Setting”.
- Isolate patients with Ebola from other patients.
- Avoid direct contact with the bodies of people who have died from Ebola.
- Notify health officials if you have had direct contact with the blood or body fluids, such as but not limited to, feces, saliva, urine, vomit, and semen of a person who is sick with Ebola. The virus can enter the body through broken skin or unprotected mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth
Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids of sick patients.
During outbreaks of Ebola, the disease can spread quickly within healthcare settings (such as a clinic or hospital). Exposure to Ebola can occur in healthcare settings where hospital staff are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, including masks, gowns, and gloves and eye protection.
Dedicated medical equipment (preferable disposable, when possible) should be used by healthcare personnel providing patient care. Proper cleaning and disposal of instruments, such as needles and syringes, is also important. If instruments are not disposable, they must be sterilized before being used again. Without adequate sterilization of the instruments, virus transmission can continue and amplify an outbreak.
Once someone recovers from Ebola, they can no longer spread the virus. However, Ebola virus has been found in semen for up to 3 months. People who recover from Ebola are advised to abstain from sex or use condoms for 3 months.
That is a lot of information, but for those of us in Dallas-area churches, these are the important points:
- You can’t get Ebola through the air;
- You can’t get Ebola through water; and
- You can’t get Ebola through food.
With World Communion Sunday this coming Sunday, if an African brother or sister is serving communion, you have no more to fear than normal. One would expect that communion servers, if feeling ill, would either stay at home or not serve communion. The normal precautions our churches take with communion servers washing hands and using hand-sanitizer are best practices in any event…this is not an exception!
Folks, it is World Communion Sunday. Show our love to our global community by your actions. Don’t stigmatize…love your neighbor!