Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 19, 2006
Possible pandemic demands planning
Edmonton Archdiocese introduces draft for a disaster protocol
By GLEN ARGAN
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
John MacDonald, associate director of the office of Pastoral Care and Life Initiatives, gathered a sample survival supply one would need in the event of a pandemic.
The disease is still being transmitted only from animals to humans. But if it mutates and begins being spread among humans then a pandemic is underway, Sandmaier said.
Each of the three pandemics of the 20th century was different.
The Spanish flu of 1918-19 killed 40 to 50 million people, including 4,000 in Alberta. It mainly affected young healthy adults.
The Asian flu pandemic of 1957-58 led to between one and two million deaths. Infection rates were highest among school children, young adults and pregnant women.
The Hong Kong flu of 1968-69 killed about 700,000 people worldwide. Those over 65 were most likely to die.
"We hope that (the Avian flu) never mutates, but you never know," Sandmaier said. "Statistically, we are due for a pandemic."
In fact, experts predict another influenza pandemic will occur within the next five to 10 years.
Medical recommendations call for people to wash their hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds as the main means of preventing the spread of influenza, she noted. Various authorities recommend that families have an emergency food and water supply on hand for anywhere between three days and a month.
For parishes, a pandemic alert will mean many changes to slow the spread of the disease.
"The only thing tougher than planning for a disaster is explaining why you didn't."
- Rita Sandmaier
There will be no collection baskets, she said, because money tends to be dirty. Some churches plan to accept donations in locked boxes which remain closed for at least three days to give viruses time to die.
The distribution of Communion will be greatly affected under the proposed guidelines. Those who handle hosts prior to Mass will have to wear disposable gloves and masks.
Eucharistic ministers will have to wash their hands with a hand sanitizer immediately before and after distributing Communion. If the Eucharistic minister accidentally touches a communicant, he or she will have to stop distributing Communion and sanitize their hands before resuming.
As well, there will be no blessings given to non-communicants.
Under the draft guidelines, the Church may move to "alternate forms of worship" for Sundays. Parishioners will be reminded of the duty to keep Sundays holy. If public gatherings are banned, a simple Liturgy of the Word will be distributed to parishioners.
Sandmaier told the group, "Some of this sounds drastic to me. It sounds very science fiction; it sounds over the top."
A pandemic could last from a few days to several months, she said. "But the life of the Church just can't stop for a year."
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.