Basing on historical and epidemiological predictions, the world is due for a pandemic influenza outbreak. The anticipation of a pandemic was heightened by the advent of a new and extremely severe fast-mutating influenza virus, the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain. Starting from Asia, this strain has now been reported throughout all continents. The risk of avian influenza (AI) epizootic and pandemic in Africa increased following detection of H5N1 virus in Nigeria, Egypt, Niger, Cameroon, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana. Given the sub-optimal veterinary and public health systems on the continent, the potential local and global public health, social and economic implications of an influenza pandemic on the African continent would be terrifying.
Against this background, the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), with support from USAID and CDC set out to work with countries in Africa to strengthen their capacity for Avian and Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response.
- To strengthen national surveillance capacity for Avian Influenza (AI), and other emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases.
- To enhance capacity for effective Avian Influenza and other zoonotic diseases investigation in both humans and animals.
- To develop national Pandemic Influenza (PI)/Zoonotic Infections humanitarian response plans in the countries supported by AFENET.
- To support FETP/FELTP trainees to undertake evaluations that will enhance national preparedness for AI/PI outbreak response using non-pharmaceutical interventions.
- To support community awareness and education about the transmission of Avian Influenza and other Zoonotic diseases from animal to human populations.