COVID-19- FRONTLINERS AT THE COMMUNITY PHARMACY
“I think operatives within Community Pharmacies are at increased risk of COVID-19. It is the first place anyone with a health problem will come to. I do not think many people are aware of this”. It is true that at the community, the Pharmacy is the first port of call for the average person with a health problem first before deciding to go to the hospital or clinic. It reminded of a recent programmer organized by MegaLife Sciences titled “Protecting your immunity and that of your clients as a frontline Pharmacy Staff during this Covid 19 pandemic”. This was to highlight the risk posed to healthcare providers within the Community Pharmacy even in the course of discharging their duty and the measures to put in place to protect themselves and clients from COVID-19. So, you will see a Veronica bucket filled with water, soap, tissue at the entrance. You will also see thermometer gun particularly in the large ones. There will be alcohol based sanitizers to provide further protection. There will be a distance separating the client from the pharmacy operative. Social distance is further enhanced within the Pharmacy making sure that clients do not cluster within the facility. The large pharmacies with large number of clients entering have enlisted security persons to enforce all these safety protocols. What needs to be done routinely by pharmacies is to ask the questions you hear at the hospitals all the time—do you have temperature? Do you cough? Do you feel tired or weak?
Health workers are at the highest risk of exposure. It is not difficult to see every operative within the Community Pharmacy as a Frontline person. Once you are in the Pharmacy you are likely to engage a client-asking questions, taking feedbacks, dispensing, counseling, taking money, checking blood pressure, checking body mass index (deduced from the weight and height), checking blood sugar, conducting malaria tests. Some pharmacies are performing blood cholesterol tests, haemoglobin tests. You will need educational materials. You will also have to educate clients about COVID-19 at the least opportunity.
The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) document on the role of Pharmacy Staff as front liners in COVID-19 fight among others state that the entire pharmacy team should be trained not only to know what to do when there is a suspicion of infection by COVID-19, but also promote measures to prevent the infection among the public. The entire pharmacy team should be trained in technical and scientific information on COVID-19, in particular on the symptoms, incubation period and modes of transmission of the virus.
Coronavirus infections can be prevented and an outbreak can be stopped through the active engagement of decision-makers, healthcare professionals, the media and the community. This was demonstrated in previous coronavirus outbreaks such as in 2003 with SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) or in 2012 with MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus). The SARS-CoV-2 is a novel strain of coronavirus that was first detected in the city of Wuhan, in the province of Hubei, in the People’s Republic of China – a city with a population of 11 million. The outbreak started as pneumonia of unknown causal agent at the end of December 2019. Phylogenetics analyses undertaken with available full genome sequences suggest that bats appear to be the reservoir of COVID-19 virus.
On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The WHO recommended that the interim name of the disease causing the current outbreak should be 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease. In the 2019-nCoV acronym, “2019” is the year the virus was first detected, “n” means “new”, and “CoV” corresponds to the coronavirus family.
On 11 February 2020, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) decided to name the virus as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and the WHO finally decided to name the disease caused by this virus as COVID-19 (for Coronavirus disease identified in 2019).
Following large outbreaks of the disease in multiple countries, with thousands of deaths around the world, on 11 March 2020 the WHO declared the outbreak to be a pandemic. The transmission of SARS-CoV-2 occurs by most often, spread from person to person among close contacts (about 6 feet/1.8 metres); person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread; these droplets can land in the mouths, noses or eyes of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs; it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. There is evidence that coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces for several hours or even days.
It is known that a strong immune system is a safeguard against COVID-19. There is therefore the need to promote healthy foods, physical exercises. At the Pharmacy you will notice a spike in the sale of some supplements. I will encourage all to make the consumption of Polyphenol-rich cocoa a daily and regular habit. Cocoa is the richest food source of polyphenols on weight basis. It is a strong anti oxidant and therefore should be considered an important tonic for the immune system. In this regard everyone including pharmacy operatives should consume it daily and regularly and equally recommend it to their clients.
DR. EDWARD O. AMPORFUL