Both Drs. Wilma Wooten and Donald Thompson recommend the frequent washing of hands to help curb the spread of the virus. Alcohol-based sanitary liquids are also recommended. Keep surfaces in common areas clean, especially door handles and flat surfaces. Wooten said bacteria can remain on some surfaces for as long as eight hours. Those with coughs and sneezes should use the inner bend of their elbow, not their hands since it can easily spread the germs.
Other recommendations for churches:
• Because it takes several days before an exposed person shows symptoms, if you or anyone in your household is sick, stay home. A person is believed to no longer be contagious after 24 hours of being fever-free without the use of medication. The CDC is recommending people stay home from seven to 10 days.
• Provide sanitary hand gels in all classrooms and gathering spots. Also provide them as parishioners are taking communion.
• Get the vaccine. Thompson recommends that high-risk patients also get a pneumonia vaccine. Thompson said the vaccine, although created quickly, is safe to use because it employed the same process used to manufacture the seasonal flu virus, which is also recommended. There are, however, concerns in some circles about the side effects of the vaccines. Take time to research the pros and cons.
• Doctors can prescribe one of two antiviral meds, Tamiflu or Relenza. Thompson said some doctors are prescribing the medication in advance so high-risk patients can begin immediately upon the sight of first symptoms. These drugs are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the first symptom. Because of potential shortages, the antivirals may only be available to the most vulnerable populations.
• Pregnant women should limit their exposure be staying away from large groups.
To help prepare for the upcoming flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prepared a "Pandemic Influenza Community Mitigation Interim Planning Guide for Faith-Based and Community Organizations." For more information, visit www.pandemicflu.gov and click on the community planning link and scroll down to the pdf link under the checklist heading or contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hotline at 1-800-232-4636.