A statement by the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference on Ebola, and a follow-up “12 Things You Need to Know” article is a great source of information about this new threat.
Here’s a summary of the bishops’ statement:
1. Nine out of 10 victims die from this virus which is named after the Ebola River in the Congo where the first outbreak occurred in the 1970s.
2. Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids: sweat, blood, saliva, mucous, breast secretion, urine and sexual transmission with an infected person. It is also spread by fruit bat, monkeys and other primates.
3. Ebola is painful and incurable.
4. The bishops say: “It is one of the world’s most deadly viruses and one of the most painful deaths possible. The victim can die anywhere from 3 to 30 days or even longer. It can only be stopped when it has no more hosts to feed on.”
5. Victims suffer fever, sore throat, headaches, weakness, joint and muscle pain and bleeding. Women suffer miscarriages if they are pregnant.
6. Death comes in two weeks, due to massive blood lost.
The bishops then offer ways to prevent the disease:
“1. Wash your hands often with soap and water; sanitizer is a good alternative.
2. Avoid physical contact with people with suspicious signs and places of outbreak.
3. Watch out for the warning signs which mimic malaria symptoms.
4. Wash fruits and vegetables well before cooking.
5. Report suspicious cases to the nearest hospital or healthcare facility.
6. Undercooked infected fruit bats and primate (bush) meat including their products transmits the virus to humans. Avoid them.”
The bishops wrap up by calling for the government to be more transparent about its plans to fight the disease and to recommend screening at points of entry to Ghana.
Under “Directives for the Church” the bishops direct priests, religious, lay leaders and catechists to provide Sunday education on the disease.
Then:“While we cannot direct our faithful not to shake hands during the Kiss of Peace at Mass, we think that it is possible to minimize the shaking of hands.”
In conclusion, the bishops say
“We recommend intensive prayers for an end to the spread of the disease in our sub-region and elsewhere and show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in affected areas. … May God who is our shield, protector and healer, keep all of us safe in these trying moments and help us fight this disease together. May God bless us all.”
We should all join in those “intensive prayers.”