by MedicalMissions.com


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Coronavirus and Missions: Finding the Balance Between Facts and Faith

Guest Contributor, Ginger Cameron, PhD

As the coronavirus spreads around the world many are faced with deciding whether they should move forward with planned vacations, furloughs, and mission trips. Making this decision can be difficult and should include a mix of both facts and faith. There is not a one size fits all answer, but with a balanced approach you can make an informed decision that is right for you and your team.

Here are three simple steps to help you make your decision:

1) be informed about the virus
2) understand the area you are traveling into
3) spend time in prayer.

Step 1: Be informed about the virus itself.

Coronavirus is actually an umbrella name for multiple viruses, similar to how we use “the flu” to mean all strains of influenza. MERS and SARS are two forms of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are respiratory diseases, meaning they primarily impact the lungs. The one spreading right now is Covid-19 and it is spreading at a rate about twice as fast as the flu. 

Covid-19 is spread through droplets released from a sick person when sneezing or coughing. It produces a fever (100.4 or higher) and also commonly causes a cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

In a few cases people report upset stomach or diarrhea. In serious cases (about 2-6% of cases) it can lead to acute respiratory syndrome, a serious condition impacting the lungs. People with underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. are at highest risk for developing significant complications from the disease as are those over the age of 60. 

If you are in or traveling to an area with active coronavirus cases, you can help protect yourself and your team with some simple health hygiene.

  1. Wash your hands with warm water and soap (not hot water, not cold water – make sure it is warm). Wash for 20 seconds or more paying special attention to your knuckles, around your fingernails and between fingers where germs like to cling.
  2. Avoid touching your face, specifically your eyes, nose and mouth. Most germs enter our bodies through these areas, and we tend to touch our faces hundreds of times a day without even realizing it. Set up a system with your team to point out each time someone touches their face to help raise awareness among the group. You can even make a game or competition out of it.
  3. Cover coughs and sneezes with the bend of your elbow, not with your hands.
  4. If you develop a fever, isolate yourself and call the doctor for further instructions.
  5. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available for hand washing.
  6. Clean and sanitize surfaces that may have been exposed such as door handles, cell phones, counter tops, toilet handles etc.

Step 2: Understand the Area you are traveling to.

Finding the right resources to provide accurate and up-to-date information can be a challenge during an active outbreak. Two places you can find reliable information are World-o-meter for global numbers and the Center for Disease Control for numbers in the United States.

Researching the coronavirus situation in the area you will be traveling can help you better understand the risks for that specific area. But beyond the numbers, consider the resources that will be available should someone on the team become ill.

Some questions to ask would be:

  • Will medical care be available if someone gets sick?
  • Could we end up quarantined or unable to return home?
  • Current quarantines are around 14 days. Is the country currently experiencing quarantine that would restrict your movement/activity while there?
  • What is their current policy regarding managing cases?
  • Will quality medical treatment be available if it becomes necessary?
  • And don’t forget to ask how your travel will affect the local people living in that area. Will it be a burden to them because of the current situation?
  • Do they have the capacity to take on the care of a sick person if that were to happen?

Step 3: Spend time in prayer.

Our God is an awesome God. He is the great physician and He is well aware of what is happening around the world. Spend considerable time in prayer and ask for His wisdom and guidance making the decision. In praying for the trip itself, be sure to pray specifically about the inclusion of those at high risk.

Ask the members of your team to do the same, letting them know that each of them needs to make the decision that is right for them.  Recruit others to pray as well, then listen to His voice and His leading.

When He has given you an answer, move forward in faith with boldness assured that you are in His will.

 

Dr. Ginger Cameron teaches graduate courses in the master’s of public health program at Purdue Global University, with a special emphasis on epidemiology. Cameron has served as a department chair, as well as assistant dean of students, programs, and assessment. She has also served as the dean of the School of Health Sciences at multiple institutions. Cameron's research has been published in a variety of journals and she has presented at national and regional conferences. She has been interviewed numerous times for her expertise in public health.

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