Improving preparedness against high threat pathogens in south-eastern Europe

WHO

To help prevent and control outbreaks caused by high threat pathogens (HTPs), including Ebola, influenza A and B, Crimean–Congo haemorrhagic fever, Zika virus, Rift Valley fever and cholera, WHO’s new Health Emergencies Programme provides technical support to countries and communities to strengthen national and international laboratory networks. This includes prepositioning reagents, deploying technical field assistance, strengthening national response capacity and assisting in developing preparedness plans.

As part of these activities, WHO/Europe’s Better Labs for Better Health initiative recently organized a workshop in collaboration with the Southeast European Center for Surveillance and Control of Infectious Diseases (SECID) for south-eastern European countries to discuss their laboratory preparedness in response to HTPs, and to identify gaps and needs.

The workshop provided a forum to:

  • discuss activities of existing international laboratory networks in the area of HTPs;
  • discuss priority HTPs relevant to the participating countries;
  • identify gaps and needs in laboratory capacities and capabilities to prepare for and respond to priority HTPs;
  • identify actions that could be taken to improve the situation.

Participants acknowledged significant gaps and needs for improvement in preparedness regarding HTPs in the south-eastern European region and recognized that no country alone can handle the increasing demand on diagnostics of endemic and emerging HTPs. Consequently, it was agreed that closer collaboration between the countries’ diagnostic laboratories is needed, and participants expressed their willingness to establish cooperation between their laboratories and laboratory networks, and with WHO/Europe, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and other partners.

The workshop was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 23–24 November 2017.