Flu Season Resources to Be Posted on Conference Website
As reported in Instant Connection last week, leadership of The United Methodist Church and of the California-Nevada Annual Conference continues to monitor the outbreak of H1N1 Flu (North American Influenza, or "Swine Flu") and to recommend common sense precautions. As the United Methodist Committee on Relief states on its website, UMCOR "is taking steps to put the illness in perspective and . . . is prepared to take appropriate action should the flu reach pandemic levels."
This week Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Dr. Richard Besser, Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a joint statement saying that ". . . the disease currently being caused by this novel flu virus appears to be similar with that typically caused by seasonal influenza. Although many people may get sick, the available data do not indicate we are facing an unusually severe influenza virus."
They also reversed an earlier recommendation that communities consider school closures when they have a laboratory-confirmed case of the virus.
"When influenza becomes common in a community, it is unlikely that actions such as closing schools or daycare facilities are effective when it comes to slowing or stopping the spread of influenza viruses. Instead, such measures bring significant cost - such as interrupting student learning - without a significant public health benefit," they said.
CDC now recommends that schools focus on "early identification of ill students and staff, staying home when ill, and good cough and hand hygiene etiquette" as the primary means to reduce the spread of influenza.
The recommendation holds true for churches, as well.
According to UMCOR Health executive Patricia Magyar, "as with any illness, educate congregations regarding prevention - including washing hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home if ill."
Meanwhile the Disaster Response Coordinator for the California-Nevada Annual Conference, UMVIM Director Sue King, is compiling a series of documents to assist churches in planning for the onset of the fall flu season. When ready, these resources will be posted on the Conference website at cnumc.org and their availability will be advertised in the Instant Connection.
UMCOR also points churches to a Faith-Based and Community Organizations Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Checklist, found at PandemicFlu.gov.