Ebola-fearing Liberians go on drugs shopping spree

Liberia has reported 294 suspected and confirmed fatalities from Ebola as of August 8

Liberia has reported 294 suspected and confirmed fatalities from Ebola as of August 8

MONROVIA – Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus and the closure of many major medical facilities, many Liberians have become their own doctors, purchasing and administering drugs to themselves and their families without the advice of medical practitioners.

"I came to buy Amoxicillin and oral rehydration salts for my family," Sue Dweh, a mother of six, told Anadolu Agency at a pharmacy in central Monrovia.

"As we all are aware, hospitals are closed, so we have to take precautions for ourselves," she explained.

Many major hospitals have closed their doors to the public in order to devote all their attention to Ebola-related cases.

It is not clear when major hospitals in the country will begin operating again at full capacity.

But even smaller health centers that remain open to the public have largely been deserted by those who fear being quarantined as suspected Ebola cases if they show symptoms as simple as diarrhea, bleeding, malaria or physical weakness.

Liberia has reported 294 suspected and confirmed fatalities from Ebola, a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure, as of August 8, with several fresh cases of suspected Ebola being reported daily.

The tropical fever, which first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, can be transmitted to humans from wild animals. It also spreads through contact with the body fluids of infected persons or those who have died from the disease.

Dweh believes that, with the closure of many hospitals, Liberians should purchase drugs for themselves and keep them at home.

She travelled a long distance to central Monrovia's Abeer Pharmacy to purchase drugs for her family.

She said she was taking precautions so that if any of her children came down with an illness she would be able to handle the problem at home.

Even though she is aware of the dangers associated with purchasing drugs without the advice of doctors, Dweh still believes this is the best course of action at the moment.

She urged her fellow Liberians to do the same.

Three major drugs are now in high demand at local pharmacies: oral-rehydration salts; Flagyl, which treats bacterial infections; and Amoxicillin, a penicillin-based antibiotic.

The Lucky and Abeer pharmacies, Liberia's largest distributors of the three drugs, have been overwhelmed with customers coming from all parts of the country to secure the drugs for their families and for sale at local pharmacies.

Another man, who identified himself only as Kelvin, walked away from the Abeer Pharmacy with a carton full of drugs.

"I see people buying drugs, thinking that keeping the drugs at home will help them," he told AA.

"I think it is not too advisable, but we can't do anything about this problem," added Kelvin, who runs a local drug store outside Monrovia. "Now, everyone is their own doctor."

-Repercussions-

But some doctors fear Liberians risk serious medical complications by taking medication without professional medical advice.

"Even though the situation of Ebola in the country has scared us all, the consumption of drugs without the advice of a professional physician is life- threatening," Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, administrator of Hope for Women International, a major hospital that provides medical services to women throughout Liberia, told AA.

Information Minister Lewis Brown, for his part, also advised citizens not to take matters into their own hands.

"Around this time of year, we usually have high reported incidents of typhus, malaria and diarrhea, all of which share the symptoms of Ebola," he told AA.

"We don't want people to think they can treat Ebola in their homes – that's taking too much risk," Brown warned.

He said the government continued to receive reports of people leaving dead bodies in the street, afraid of having their homes disinfected or being subject to a 21-day quarantine.

The information minister stressed the government's concern regarding the difficulties Liberians were going through amid the closure of hospitals.

Brown said health workers were being retrained at the Redemption and John F. Kennedy hospitals in advance of resuming normal work and providing services to the public.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declared a 90-day state of emergency throughout the country due to the Ebola outbreak.

She has already ordered the immediate closure of all the nation's schools, along with other measures aimed at containing the outbreak.

Sirleaf also ordered all non-essential government personnel to be placed on a 30-day compulsory leave.

The Liberian leader further called for the closure of all markets along the border with Sierra Leone and Guinea until further notice.

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