August 12, 2014

Adventist Church Recommends Travel Moratorium to and from West Africa

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
In an e-mail to presidents of each of the denomination’s 13 world
divisions and two attached fields, Landless recommended:

  • Avoidance of travel from the affected countries—Liberia, Sierra Leone,
    and Guinea—to conferences elsewhere until there is clear evidence that the
    epidemic is abating and under control.
  • In the most severely affected areas, avoidance of attendance at public
  • When meeting and greeting, avoid hugging and other public displays of
    affection during this difficult time.
  • “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,”
    Landless said.

    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

    —Additional reporting
    provided by Gilbert Wari.