Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Enhanced Disease Surveillance

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in their “Emerging Pandemic Threats Program” (EPT) is building disease surveillance and training programs, especially for avian and pandemic influenza. The focus of the EPT program is to pre-empt or combat at their sources newly emerging diseases of animal origin that could threaten human health.

In recent times, 75 percent of all new human illnesses such as HIV, SARS, Avian Influenza, and H1N1 have emerged as a result of the convergence of people, animals, and our environment. The speed by which they can spread across the increasingly interconnected globe makes it difficult to identify, contain, and respond when new viruses first emerge. It is essential to identify these viruses before they move to full scale human to human transmission.

USAID just awarded the Academy for Educational Development (AED) a non-profit located in Washington D.C., a five year multimillion dollar cooperative agreement called “PREVENT”. The plan is to develop and implement effective behavior changes and communications interventions to reduce the risk of emerging zoonotic diseases.

“AED will work in emerging infectious diseases under the PREVENT agreement. With the threats from avian flu and now pandemic HINI influenza, more people recognize the critical importance that communication can play in helping to control disease outbreaks,” said Margaret Parlato, Senior Vice-President and Director of AED’s Global Health, Population, and Nutrition Group.

AED just released the code for GATHERdata™ which is a system to collect data that can shave off weeks of data reporting and analysis. With built in business intelligence modules, the system integrates data analysis and report generation into a seamless process. In tracking incoming epidemiological reports, the system can automatically send urgent messages to alert authorities of potentially dangerous situations.

Because it is open source, GATHERdata ™ reduces cost barriers that typically render this advanced technology out of reach for small organizations and institutions in developing countries. To support these users, AED is creating a web site for collaborative development of the GATHER code to be able to share the technology, new applications, and electronic forms.

Other programs within USAID working to detect and control outbreak responses are:

• The PREDICT program has a five year cooperative agreement with experts in wildlife surveillance at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Trust, the Smithsonian Institute, and Global Viral Forecasting Inc. The goal is to monitor geographic hot spots to identify the emergence of new infectious diseases in high risk wildlife

• The IDENTIFY program is working with the U.N. World Health Organization, U.N Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health through existing grants that will develop laboratory networks

• The RESPOND program has a five year cooperative agreement to work with Development Alternatives Inc., University of Minnesota, Tufts University, Training and Resource Group, and Ecology and Environment Inc., to focus on the development of outbreak investigation and response training

• The PREPARE program has a three year cooperative agreement with the International Medical Corps to provide technical support for simulations and the field testing of national, regional, and local pandemic preparedness plans