Influenza preparedness and response: Involvement of African Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programs, 2009
Background: The capacity of public health professionals to rapidly detect and respond to disease pandemics is critical to understand and control global disease spread. On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared H1N1 virus infection as pandemic. In May 2009, we assessed the participation of Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programs (FELTPs) based in sub-Saharan Africa on pandemic influenza preparedness and response. Methods: We administered an electronic survey to directors and resident advisors of African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) member and associate FELTPs. The survey included questions on the following attributes: program involvement in suspected H1N1 investigations, experience in influenza outbreak investigations, national influenza surveillance and response plans, and H1N1 outbreak preparedness. Results: Nine countries (100%) responded to the survey; all had existing national influenza response plans. Six programs reported their trainees had participated in past pandemic preparedness and response exercise, five (83%) of them were influenza specific. Conclusion: FELTPs played an important role in H1N1 surveillance and response in sub-Saharan Africa. Continued technical assistance and support to these programs is vital to foster their capacity to monitor and control public health threats.
Key words: Influenza, FELTP, surveillance, preparedness, response, H1N1, pandemic, field epidemiology