Pharmacists in Liberia report that the fight against Ebola is gaining momentum with traditional leaders in rural villages implementing measures to stop transmission.
David Sumo, president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Liberia, says leaders in rural communities have taken steps to prevent transmission of the virus, and that the focus is now shifting to urban slum districts.
“About a month ago, the entire health system was overrun by the situation,” he says. “The daily death rate was somewhere between 60 and 100. Denial was still a major issue. Observing basic hygiene practices, harmful traditional and religious practices were still a challenge, especially in rural parts and slum communities.”
Sumo says traditional leaders in rural villages have now put into place practices to stop transmission and that the biggest challenges are now in the urban populated slum communities.
Earlier predictions were that the situation would worsen until January 2015, but that has changed, says Sumo. “The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations are now predicting that with the rapid change in behaviour and practices, we may put this under total control in the next three months.”
His comments came along with the publication in Liberia of a training guide designed for pharmacy and drug store dispensers. It explains how to spot a suspected case of Ebola and what action should be taken.
The guide starkly illustrates the scale of the challenges the country still faces in tackling the virus.
The guide advises staff to install a hand washing station in their store, never to touch a customer and to stay behind their counter. They are told to wash the counter and other surfaces with a light chlorine solution. A stronger solution should be used to mop the floor, according to the guidance prepared by the Pharmaceutical Association of Liberia, the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority and others.
If they suspect a person has contracted Ebola, staff are told to keep the patient outside the store and not to touch them. They must call an emergency number and wait for a mobile health team to arrive, which they are warned may take some time.
As of 15 October 2014, there have been 4,249 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of Ebola in Liberia and an estimated 2,458 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The number of health workers who have contracted the disease is 209, of whom 96 have died.