As West African countries struggle to manage the current Ebola outbreak, more needs to be done internationally to improve the capabilities of the local pharmacy workforce.
West Africa is currently in the grip of a terrifying outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD). As of 26 August 2014, 3,069 people have been identified with the virus, of whom 1,552 (50.6%) have died. The outbreak currently involves Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and, most recently, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and there are fears that it may elude stringent precautions and spread into further territories.
Governments and the international community are trying to bring the epidemic under control and to contain its spread. Some of the measures taken so far to limit the possible spread of Ebola to other countries include quarantining whole communities in affected areas, closing borders and reducing flights to affected areas. At the time of writing, British Airways, among other airlines, had stopped flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone — two of the most badly affected countries.
As the epidemic continues to wreak havoc within one of the world’s poorest regions, pharmacists, both in the affected countries and internationally, should reflect on what role their profession should play in epidemics such as this. In a 2012 article in The Pharmaceutical Journal, my colleagues and I called for pharmacists in developing countries, particularly those in Africa, to take a stronger position in the battle against the enduring epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Little did we know then that Ebola would be spoken about in the same terms.