By Craig Beam

We are fortunate that science has brought us solutions to many of the diseases that were part of my childhood. I’m old enough that I predated most of the vaccines that are now widely used and prevent so many of the diseases that we used to get in childhood. I’ve had chicken pox, measles, rubella and the mumps. While I survived all of these, there were many children who did not or developed some disability related to these illnesses.

I still have vivid recollections of parents accepting these as part of growing up, but were very fearful of any of us contracting polio – a contagious virus that had devastating results for kids. In the mid-1950s there were several epidemic outbreaks of Polio in the US. Many who contracted the virus led to death or paralysis of children and adults.

Communities reacting to pandemic outbreaks is not a new concept. In the past, communities would react by closing community pools, bowling alleys, roller rinks – anyplace where kids might gather.  A vaccine was developed and I can recall standing in line slinking around the local elementary school with hundreds of other kids to get a shot. By 1994 Polio had been eliminated in the United States and the vaccine is no longer given here.

Today, we face a different threat, but it’s creating the same kind of anxiety that I remember from childhood.  Events cancelled, social distancing, sports coming to a halt. While we still don’t know how this will play out, it’s of major concern, especially for Petra as we spend time in hospitals and clinics. There are some things we do know – most people who contract the virus will have mild symptoms: a fever, dry cough and runny nose. However, there are some who are at greatest risk appear to be those who have underlying comorbidities or risk factors such as diabetes, smoking, hypertension or COPD/asthma.

I expect the news to get worse here in the US over the next few weeks, but like most epidemics it will likely peak and then fall off.  When you hear healthcare professionals talk about “flattening the curve”, they are attempting to spread out the impact so that caregivers and hospitals are better able to provide care for those who need more extensive care. Expect rapid adoption of this testing, which in the short term will probably mean a spike in reported cases.

So, is there reason for anxiety? Yes.   Should we panic? No.

What should we do?  This is repeating what you already know:

If you are sick, stay home!

Practice great hygiene by washing your hands frequently, using hand sanitizer often, and wiping down surfaces with disinfectant wipes. Don’t share things communally. Avoid crowds, practice social distancing, do not shake hands. It’s time to bring back the elbow bump!

While we are not on the front lines of addressing this pandemic, we play an important supporting role to those who are. It’s important that we continue to serve our ministries so that they are ready to provide the care to those most in need.

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