WHO/Europe highlights improvements in influenza virus sharing at NIC meeting

WHO

The 65th anniversary of the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) was marked at a meeting of the National Influenza Centres (NICs) in Geneva, Switzerland on 17–19 July 2017. The GISRS is a network of 152 WHO-recognized NICs in 113 countries, 6 WHO Collaborating Centres for influenza, 4 WHO Essential Regulatory Laboratories and 13 WHO H5 Reference Laboratories. The meeting was intended to assess the status of GISRS preparedness on influenza surveillance and response, to review the global strategy on influenza and to strategize a GISRS development plan.

Speaking during a session dedicated to GISRS achievements at global and regional levels, Dr Caroline Brown, WHO/Europe Team Leader for the High Threat Pathogens Programme, presented on the improved representativeness of influenza viruses due to their timely sharing by NICs in support of WHO’s consultations on influenza vaccine composition. Dr Brown also presented the Programme’s initiatives and work performed to enhance influenza surveillance in the WHO European Region. She highlighted the substantial achievements made in the NICs’ surveillance bulletins, pandemic preparedness and vaccine awareness, as well as their assessments of influenza-risk and burden of disease.

Thirty-five participants representing 29 NICs and the influenza national epidemiological focal points from the Region attended the meeting and actively participated in panel discussions. The meeting explained the importance of the “One Health” approach to improving public health measures to combat outbreaks of zoonotic influenza. The implications of advanced laboratory technologies and mathematical modelling in enhancing influenza surveillance and preparedness were also discussed, and the new terms of reference for the NICs’ obligations were explained.

Ten countries from the Region presented 11 posters highlighting significant influenza virological and epidemiological findings.

The meeting proposed a renewed landscape of development for influenza surveillance and preparedness to position GISRS to meet the increasing public health needs in the changing environments of both seasonal and zoonotic influenza.