COMMENTARY

Overview of Ebola Outbreak Stresses Proactive Solutions

Priyank Kumar, PhD; Paramita Basu, PhD; Katherine K. Knapp, PhD

Disclosures

June 26, 2015

Viewpoint

This study offers an excellent review of all aspects of Ebola, with up-to-date information as of November 2014. Its scope is broader than the title would indicate—Akhtar and colleagues summarized the underlying factors contributing to the emergence, rapid spread, and uncontrolled nature of the 2013-2014 EVD outbreak as well as information about the virus itself, including the pathophysiology leading to infection, its epidemiology, diagnosis/screening, transmission dynamics, and options for its treatment and prevention.

Although the title focuses on shifting to proactive emphasis, the discussion of proactivity within the report is limited, yet there is an emphasis on the need to focus on prevention, elimination, and containment. Since its publication, there has been a strong decline in the number of new Ebola cases in the 3 countries principally involved: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.[5] Retrospectively, it appears that international measures in the form of data collection, aid for building clinics, training for healthcare workers, and assistance with practices such as safe burials were late in being initiated.[6] These efforts, however, stand ready to prevent or limit future epidemics. Meanwhile, there is evidence of a return to more-normal life patterns in the affected areas, although the rate varies among the different countries.[7]

From the perspective of the United States, the worldwide spread of Ebola in fall 2014 mandated rapidly developed containment measures, which, in turn, required workforce training, infection management policies, rational travel policies, and effective screening strategies. Criticisms about the timeliness of Ebola response were somewhat blunted by the falloff in new cases in the United States during winter 2015. Now, during a relatively "quiet" period, continued proactive efforts balancing effectiveness and cost need to continue.

From a pharmacy perspective, there are contributions to be made. We suggest that pharmacies and pharmacy websites provide current and accurate information about Ebola infection that is both readily available and user friendly. We found such information on one national chain's website,[8] whereas another national chain provided information about emergency medical supplies.[9] Chain pharmacy corporations are in a unique position to aid public health communication efforts, should new outbreaks occur. Likewise, should an effective vaccine become available, the ever-expanding role of pharmacies as sites for immunization could prove invaluable in containing outbreaks.

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