The following information about the Coronavirus has been offered by Brethren Disaster Ministries as a resource to help Brethren congregations and members better understand the outbreak and ways to respond, and are informed of trusted websites to visit frequently for updates and suggestions. Contact Brethren Disaster Ministries at 800-451-4407 or go to www.brethren.org for more about the disaster relief work of the Church of the Brethren.
The current outbreak of the respiratory illness that is caused by a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, at the end of December 2019. Health officials are monitoring the spread of the virus that has affected thousands of people in China, with a growing number in other countries.
While most of the cases and deaths from this virus have occurred in China, occurrences have been discovered throughout the world including a small number on the mainland US, including person-to-person transmission. Yesterday, Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared an international health emergency defined as “an ‘extraordinary event’ that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.”
Many of the precautions and resources listed below also apply to prevention of Influenza (the flu) and other illnesses that are more common in the US but can also be deadly.
Websites to track
The following websites are updated frequently with applicable information as the virus is being tracked:
Center for Disease Control (CDC) Coronavirus page www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html
World Health Organization (WHO) Novel Coronavirus 2019 page also is tracking and addressing myths about the virus www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
As of today, Jan. 31, travel warnings from the US State Department have been issued recommending all travel to China be avoided. This alert status can be tracked on this website for future changes: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/china-travel-advisory.html
Screenings have started at select US airports for travelers from China, with expanded screening by Customs and Border Patrol. Some commercial airlines have limited or cancelled flights to and from China.
Future CDC Travel updates and recommendations can be tracked at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html
There is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The CDC recommends these everyday, preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:
-- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.
-- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
-- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
-- Staying home when you are sick.
-- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash.
-- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
(source: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html )
Ideas for churches to prevent the spread of illness
Give permission for peace signs, fist bumps, and elbow touches to replace hugs and hand shaking.
Make hand sanitizer available throughout the church.
Place a box of tissues in every pew.
Encourage people to wash their hands and post reminder signs throughout the church. ( www.cdc.gov/handwashing/materials.html ).
Wipe down everything touched by churchgoers, like door handles, pew tops, and railings.
Limit potlucks and other nonessential large gatherings.
Host conference calls or video chats as alternatives for face-to-face meetings, as possible.
Printable prevention resources
Here are websites where you can find posters to download and display to help with the spread of a variety of illnesses in your community: www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public ;
Please share these resources with the members of your church and district, and track the websites for up-to-date information on this outbreak and prevention.
-- Jenn Dorsch-Messler, director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, provided this report to Newsline.