Epidemiological surveillance

Due to the borderless nature of infections, enhanced international communication has become crucial, with global efforts underway to integrate national and international reporting systems following outbreaks like COVID-19, SARS, and new influenza pandemics.

Epidemiology is the study of health and diseases in populations. It is used during a public health emergency to understand the needs of the affected populations, the nature and exposure of the disease, and to inform control activities. However, there can be difficulties as most outbreaks of emerging diseases frequently arise in regions lacking both clinical and epidemiological expertise. Many laboratories, especially in Africa, are often poorly equipped and lack adequately trained personnel that can recognise and react appropriately to fight the disease.

Disease/Epidemiological Surveillance is the foundation for an immediate and long-lasting strategy against infectious illnesses and consists in an ongoing systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health data. This is usually a responsibility of the national authorities and includes assessing individual cases, identifying the cause, and compiling population-based data that inform public health policy. In other words, surveillance systems are essential to prevent and protect from those diseases and to provide timely and useful evidence for targeted action.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) also recognises health surveillance as a key element in predicting public health risks related to emerging zoonotic diseases.

An effective surveillance system must be able to perform the following functions: detection and notification of health events, collection and consolidation of pertinent data, investigation and confirmation of cases or outbreaks, routine analysis and creation of reports, feedback of information to those providing the data, feed-forward and reporting data to higher administrative levels. All this requires coordination and collaboration amongst various programs and a wider range of experts including front-line health care providers (veterinarians or clinicians), epidemiologists, information system specialists and laboratory personnel. This is important to promote awareness of potential environmental hazards and support effective exchange of information during outbreaks of zoonotic diseases.

Surveillance is categorised into active surveillance, passive surveillance and sentinel surveillance. It may also be categorised to include early warning surveillance, indicator-based surveillance, hazard-specific surveillance, general surveillance, syndromic surveillance, event-based surveillance, risk-based surveillance, enhanced passive surveillance and participatory surveillance.

The role of STOR-Remesa

    • Offer scientist and researches from REMESA training courses and technologies on the recent approaches on data collection and analysis, particularly to North African countries. There will be periodical announcements of these courses on the website.

    • Gather and analyse data and information through its STC, to identify knowledge gaps to better understand and be prepared against emerged threats.

    • Strengthen surveillance of animal diseases through international research projects