April 26, 2013

Meeting to Develop a Five Year Proposal for Influenza Surveillance and Response, in Countries of South East Europe (SEE), 8-9 April, 2013, Tirana, Albania

On 8-9 April, the SEE Regional Health Development Centre on Communicable Diseases Surveillance and Control, at the National Public Health Institute of Albania in Tirana, held its regular meeting. the National Focal points of all 10 countries, Member States of the SEE Health Network were represented. The event was worganised with the technical support of WHO Regional Office for Europe who was represented by Dr. Caroline Brown, programme Manager.

The objective of the meeting was to develop a Five Year Proposal for Influenza Surveillance and Response, in Countries of South East Europe (SEE).

At the meeting each country  presented the issues and their gaps on:
1.      Influenza surveillance system,
2.      Sentinel surveillance for ILI and SARI,
3.      Description of human capacities involved in influenza surveillance,
4.      Information management system for surveillance data,
5.      Laboratory capacities and Influenza testing,
6.      National routine influenza surveillance reporting and collaboration with other sectors,
7.      National data about Influenza Disease burden,
8.      Identification of SARI and febrile illness and early identification of clusters and outbreaks,
9.      Rapid response and containment, and
10.    Pandemic preparedness.
Based on the countries´needs and priorities, the plenary and working group discussions and the follow-up work of the RHDC, a project will be developed and submitted to CDC for consideration and support.
What is FAO?
The US CDC Influenza division is an important partner of the Influenza & Other Respiratory Pathogens Programme at the WHO Regional Office for Europe, providing funding through a 5-year cooperative agreement and technical support. Currently, a CDC senior epidemiologist is seconded to WHO/Europe and other CDC staff provides support through trainings, missions and provision of reagents. CDC consults with WHO/Europe when new funding opportunities arise to identify potential recipient countries.
For the current Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), WHO/Europe was requested to identify 3 countries: 2 countries were identified and instead of 3rdcountry, WHO/Europe recommended funding be made available to the SEE network through the South East European Centre for Surveillance and Control of Infectious Diseases, SECID. WHO/Europe saw this as an opportunity to improve surveillance and response to influenza in all SEE countries up to an agreed level, over a five-year period. As different countries are at a different level of capacity, and because the Republic of Moldova already has a bilateral Cooperative Agreement with CDC for influenza, it should be possible to agree on allocation of funds according to needs, resulting in countries receiving different amounts of funding.
Related to this, the FOA mentions only four countries specifically: Albania because the SECID would be able to receive, manage and transfer the funds to other countries, and Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and the Republic of Macedonia because these three countries do not currently have a WHO-recognized National Influenza Centre nor sentinel influenza surveillance systems. The same is true for Kosovo.
The principal intent of this assistance is to support routine influenza surveillance and build capacity to respond to and contain highly pathogenic viruses transmissible among humans.  A second intent is to support the development of epidemiologic, virologic, and related capacity to detect, respond to, and monitor changes in influenza viruses, as well as identify outbreaks of severe respiratory illness syndromes.  A third intent is to help strengthen the connections between national institutions in different countries, especially National Influenza Centres, to more fully participate in the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), and become more capable of sharing specimens and clinical and epidemiologic data on disease related to the circulation of influenza in more countries.
WHO/Europe considers the CDC FOA as a great opportunity for SEE countries to develop a 5 year proposal for collaboration in the area of influenza surveillance and response. WHO/Europe proposes that the SEE countries develop a proposal based on the principles that there would be funding allocated to the different countries according to needs that are measured against the outputs described on page 3 of the FOA.

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