WHO assesses influenza surveillance in Azerbaijan
A team of experts from the WHO Country Office in Azerbaijan and WHO/Europe conducted a mission on 9–13 October 2017 to assess progress in the country’s influenza surveillance system. They also performed an on-site assessment of the newly built national influenza laboratory at the State Antiplague Station of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Health in Baku.
The assessment identified the steps necessary for the laboratory to obtain formal WHO recognition as a national influenza centre. It was performed at the special request of the Ministry of Health, as part of its interest in continuing technical cooperation with WHO/Europe.
In parallel with the laboratory assessment, experts visited the national Centre for Hygiene and Epidemiology (GEM) and its subnational offices, as well as selected sentinel surveillance sites in the cities of Baku and Ganja.
The experts held a number of meetings and discussions with national focal points and staff of GEM and the sentinel sites. Through these meetings, they explored existing data collection and reporting processes, sampling strategies, and the challenges faced in conducting sentinel surveillance. They presented key findings and recommendations for strengthening the influenza surveillance system at the Ministry of Health on the last day of the mission.
Acute respiratory infections (ARI) are among the most frequently reported diseases in Azerbaijan. Universal surveillance for ARI has existed for decades. In 2006, following outbreaks of avian influenza A(H5N1) with 8 associated human infections and 5 deaths, the Ministry of Health established surveillance for avian influenza A(H5N1) viruses.
Sentinel surveillance for influenza-like illness in outpatient polyclinics has been implemented since 2009 in order to strengthen epidemiological and virological monitoring of influenza. At the same time, sentinel surveillance for severe ARI was set up in hospitals in Baku to increase capacity for monitoring hospitalized influenza. This includes identifying both people at risk of developing severe disease and the viruses associated with severe illness.
The sentinel sites are based in 7 regions of Azerbaijan (Baku, Ganja, Khachmaz, Lenkaran, Mingechevir, Qazakh and Sumgayit) and cover a catchment area of approximately 20% of the country’s population.