WHO/Europe supports regional response to MERS-CoV and avian influenza A(H7N9)

The recent emergence of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and a new avian influenza virus A(H7N9) causing severe disease in humans in China emphasizes the critical need for constant vigilance and investment in pandemic preparedness across the globe. Both these viruses are highly pathogenic and are considered to have the potential to evolve and spread. This poses challenges in countries where there may be insufficient surveillance and laboratory capacity, poor access to health care facilities and high incidence of other respiratory diseases.

Capacity building

In light of the potential threat to public health, WHO/Europe is providing emergency support to countries to strengthen capacities to detect and respond to these two viruses. From September to December 2013 trainings and workshops in the clinical management of cases of severe acute respiratory infections (SARI), the development of laboratory assays and outbreak response will be conducted in five countries in the Caucasus (Azerbaijan) and central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan). The workshops will be facilitated by WHO/Europe and experts from Member States.

The expected outcomes will be enhanced SARI surveillance during the upcoming 2013/2014 influenza season and improved national guidelines and operationality of country outbreak response teams.