By Haruna Gimba
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in collaboration with World Health Organisation (WHO) met with partners from May 15 to 19 to plan on new approaches to detect and respond to disease outbreaks in Africa.
According to statement issued by the Directorate of Information and Communication of the African Union Commission, the approach, called ‘event-based surveillance,’ involves using open source information, such as social media posts, to detect events that might pose a risk to public health.
Director of Africa CDC, Dr John Nkengasong, said the event-based surveillance is a critical tool to improve disease intelligence.
“We need robust, responsive systems across Africa that detect threats early and respond to them swiftly. In this age of emerging epidemics, high quality disease intelligence is essential to assuring global health security,” he said.
In the last decades, the world has undergone rapid changes, including massive increases in urbanisation, population movement, and international trade and travel.
New threats have emerged, including novel infectious diseases, bioterrorism, and environmental, chemical, and nuclear accidents. To address these threats, the World Health Assembly revised the International Health Regulations in 2005, mandating that all countries detect, assess, notify, and respond to all acute threats to human health.
To comply with the International Health Regulations, countries need strong disease surveillance systems. Conventional disease surveillance systems rely on persons presenting to health facilities, and having medical staff at health facilities report to government authorities when these persons have a disease of public health concern.
The statement said the Africa CDC is committed to strengthening how countries detect these cases, verify their disease with laboratory testing, report cases to central authorities, and integrate, analyse, and use the data they collect.
Health Reporters gathered that the Africa CDC will be documenting the best practices and lessons learnt from the 18 Member States who have already introduced some form of event-based surveillance.
Africa CDC will also develop a practical country-level guide on how to implement event based surveillance and use its regional collaborating centres in Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Gabon to work with countries to implement.