To calm nerves and to reassure the faithful, the bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Owerri have called for calm in the wake of the resent outbreak of Ebola disease.

In a thirteen point directive titled, EBOLA: PASTORAL DIRECTIVES FROM THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE, OWERRI ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCE, IN THE LIGHT OF THE OUTBREAK OF THE EBOLA VIRUS DISEASE issued at the beginning of last week, the bishops called for greater awareness and sensitization on the symptoms, effects, and preventive measures of Ebola Virus Disease.

As most infections thrive on filthy environment, the bishops encouraged more attention to environmental and personal hygiene.

According to the local ordinaries, “Godliness demands over-all cleanliness. We therefore urge all our people to ensure that our homes, toilets, kitchens, surroundings, market places, public eating places and play grounds are regularly kept clean”

The fear of the disease they said, should not detract in anyway the church’s mission to care for the sick and the dying. They advised “Priests to exercise caution and discretion when they go for sick calls particularly when they have to administer the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick”

Contrary to the directives in most dioceses, the bishops of the Owerri province believe there is no need to scrap the Kiss of Peace – the usual hand shake – during Mass. “We shall continue to give the usual sign of peace at Mass through the hand-shake. If exigencies call for it, the sign of peace hand-shake will be suspended”.

In the wake the Ebola Virus disease, many have been calling for the reception of the Holy Communion by hand. But the bishops said NO. “Communion on the tongue remains the norm, our accustomed practice. However, if exigencies call for it, communion in the hand will be allowed. In that case, the faithful will be duly educated and prepared for it. Priests and others involved should wash their hands properly before distributing Holy Communion. The faithful should observe mouth-hygiene and due reverence in receiving Holy Communion”.

So far there is no known cure for Ebola. Those who survive it do so by chance. Three main countries in West Africa are the worst hit, namely Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  A Liberian man Patrick Sawyer who died in a Lagos Hospital brought the virus to Nigeria. Authorities have since mounted a strong effort to make sure the virus doesn’t spread in Nigeria. However, there have been casualties from the medical team who contracted the disease from the Liberian man while he was being treated in Lagos. Cases in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak this year have risen to 2,240, including 1,229 deaths, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

Two Americans who contracted the Ebola Virus disease last month in Liberia and were scrambled to the US nearly two weeks ago have been cured and were released on Thursday. They were given the experimental drug Zmapp and were said to have responded to treatment. Doctors in the US said it was an amazing recovery. Experts say they can’t tell whether it was the experimental drugs or something else that cured them.

The experimental drug Zmapp remains the last line of defence in the absence of any other medication. This was why the WHO approved its use, contrary ethical standards on experimental drugs. This has raised hope in worst hit countries. World health experts say if well contained, the virus could be on the rampage for the next six months. It will however take several months to mass produce Zmapp says Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc, the company that manufactures the drug.

There have calls for an overhaul of public health systems, environmental and personal hygiene as a way of checking the spread of the disease.