Health & Fitness

The Ebola effect is felt across DFW

Churches are suspending Communion traditions and encouraging congregants not to hold hands or kiss. New York Giants football players are second-guessing whether their wives should accompany them on a road trip to play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

And at the State Fair of Texas, even Big Tex is urging visitors to wash their hands. Dallas has seen only three cases of Ebola, but it’s top of mind for almost everyone.

Healthcare experts remain confident they can stop the deadly virus in its tracks, and they say there is little chance of an outbreak in the United States.

As of Thursday, no new cases of Ebola had been reported beyond the first three — a Liberian man who died last week in a Dallas hospital, and two Metroplex nurses who are being treated after contracting the disease while caring for him.

But because Dallas-Fort Worth, home to roughly 7 million people, is ground zero for a new contagious threat, its residents are taking whatever precautions they can.

Many organizations taking steps to prevent Ebola are simultaneously urging calm. They aim to remind residents that the virus, which is spread by direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, isn’t likely to make its way through society like the flu or the common cold.

“To be clear, these are the same changes that the diocese has used every year for a number of years when a flu or some other medical issue pops up,” said Pat Svacina, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, issuing a qualifier about the new Holy Communion rules. “The diocese strives to be proactive by making the adaptations early in the flu season.”

Churches

Effective immediately, priests and deacons in the Fort Worth Diocese are asked to have Communion without wine. Wafers will still be used and should be placed in the parishioners’ hands, not on their tongues.

Congregants will be asked not to hold hands while reciting the Our Father. And they should be reminded not to touch hands or kiss during the Sign of Peace, according to an advisory sent Wednesday by the diocese’s vicar general, the Very Rev. Karl Schilken.

“Due to the upcoming influenza season and questions regarding communicable diseases such as Ebola, we will be reinstituting the liturgical adaptations we have used in the past,” Schilken wrote in the advisory. “Please begin utilizing these adaptations immediately.”

The diocese includes about 720,000 Catholics in 28 counties, stretching from Tarrant County to Knox County in West Texas.

Airplanes

Frontier Airlines placed two pilots and four flight attendants on paid leave for 21 days after the revelation that a nurse had Ebola symptoms when she flew Monday. The Denver-based carrier is also giving the aircraft a deep scrubbing.

Seat covers and carpet near where nurse Amber Joy Vinson was sitting have been ripped out and replaced. Environmental filters in the cabin have also been replaced.

“These steps were taken out of concern for the safety of our customers and employees,” Frontier CEO David Siegel said in a letter sent to workers late Wednesday.

The aircraft is expected to be back in the skies within days.

Football

The New York Giants are coming to play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon — but some Giants players told the Star-Ledger in New Jersey this week that they had reservations about bringing their wives and children.

“I’m not even sure if I’m going home next week during the bye,” center J.D. Walton, a native of Allen, told the Star-Ledger. He said his wife and 1-year-old child may stay on the East Coast.

As for the Cowboys, head trainer Jim Maurer has discussed Ebola with the players, club executive Stephen Jones said.

“Yes. Jim has made them aware of it. The league has sent some things out that he has made them aware of,” Jones said. “The biggest thing is so they are educated and understand where it is. It’s just education.”

State Fair

The only change at the State Fair has been Big Tex’s announcement every half-hour reminding fairgoers to wash their hands, said an employee in spokeswoman Karissa Schuler’s office. The fair, which ends Sunday, already had sanitizer dispensers throughout the grounds, and vendors often have sanitizer at their booths.

The employee said fair attendance has been on a par with previous years.

Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner, but as of now Fort Worth-area health officials haven’t issued guidelines for trick-or-treaters.

Tarrant County Public Health has not discussed making any recommendations on trick-or-treating or Halloween-related gatherings because of the Ebola virus, and the department has not received any requests for guidance from groups or cities that are holding public Halloween events, spokesman Kelly Hanes said.

Staff writers Andrea Ahles, Yamil Berard, Drew Davison, Susan Schrock and Judy Wiley contributed to this report.

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This story was originally published October 16, 2014 8:10 PM.

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