The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s top health official urged Church
employees and members to not travel to and from countries in West Africa
affected by the Ebola epidemic, a recommendation that came on the day the World
Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak an international health
Health Ministries Director Dr. Peter Landless also said officials at the
Church’s world headquarters are working with two Adventist hospitals in West
Africa to protect staff and patients from the virus. The outbreak across three
West African countries has killed more than 930 people during the past six
months, including an Adventist Church member.
Church member Joenpu Loweal, a 27-year-old nurse, died after contracting
the Ebola virus while working in her job at Phebe hospital in Liberia’s Bong
county, said James Golay, president of the denomination’s West Africa Union
Mission. In an e-mail to presidents of each of the denomination’s 13 world
divisions and two attached fields, Landless recommended:
“These recommendations are stringent, but necessary, and reminiscent of
those suggested during the SARS outbreak a few years ago,” Landless said.
The WHO declared the Ebola outbreak an international health emergency,
and urged several heads of state to declare a state of emergency. According to
media reports, WHO director general Margaret Chan said at a news conference that
the affected countries are unable to manage the outbreak on their own.
The operations of two Adventist hospitals in West Africa are being
closely monitored by officials at the world headquarters and by
California-based Adventist Health International (AHI), which oversees the two
facilities. In an interview, Landless said there is close collaboration between
the Adventist Church’s headquarters, AHI, and the denomination’s Loma Linda
University in dealing with crisis.
Landless said Cooper Seventh-day Adventist Hospital in Liberia has been
designated as a non-Ebola hospital. The Liberian government has mandated that
patients suspected to be infected with the Ebola virus should be sent to
government hospitals specifically designated to treat the disease, he said.
“We’re working to ensure as much as possible the safety of patients and
personnel, and we’re doing our best to remain a support to the overburdened
health system during this very difficult time for the affected territories,”
Church leaders said they are also monitoring operations at Waterloo
Seventh-day Adventist Hospital in Sierra Leone. “Our prayers, thoughts, and
support are with all who are affected and infected,” said Orville Parchment,
assistant to the Adventist Church president.
Ebola is spread through contact with bodily fluids and tissues of an
infected person. Those most at risk are healthcare staff and family members
caring for someone affected with the virus, according to the WHO. Ebola kills
up to 90 percent of people who contract the virus. The current Ebola outbreak
is the largest in the virus’ 40-year history, health officials said.
Leaders at the Adventist Church headquarters said they have monitored the
situation for several months based on information from the WHO and the Centers
for Disease Control. In recent weeks, Adventist leaders in West Africa have
postponed scheduled conferences, including a youth rally and a Women’s Ministries
provided by Gilbert Wari.