Students at APHL/CDC influenza training in Croatia learn how to fit a respirator
Former White House Ebola Response Coordinator Ronald Klain wrote recently in The Washington Post, “From now on, dangerous epidemics are going to be a regular fact of life. We can no longer accept surprise as an excuse for a response that is slow out of the gate.”
APHL could not agree more. That’s why the association has been working so diligently to boost national and global disease surveillance capacity. One of APHL’s longstanding efforts—ongoing for almost a decade—focuses on the influenza virus, a rapidly evolving microbe that periodically triggers large-scale outbreaks, such as the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) pandemic that began in Mexico and spread around the world, killing an estimated 284,000 people, including 12,000 in the United States.
Establishing, maintaining and updating laboratory-based programs to detect and characterize novel influenza viruses is a challenging undertaking. To facilitate the process, APHL offers two critical services:
- Voluntary laboratory capacity assessments to laboratories participating in the World Health Organization Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) and to laboratories that wish to become GISRS members.
- A series of US- and international-based influenza training courses that focus on needs identified through the laboratory assessments.
Altogether, more than 60 laboratories have taken advantage of APHL assessments. And the trainings have covered everything from influenza laboratory management to biosafety and advanced trouble-shooting for influenza real time rt-PCR testing. Future trainings will likely cover next generation whole genome sequencing.
In May 2016 alone, scientists from over two dozen laboratories participated in APHL-sponsored trainings in Croatia and California. The scientists came from countries across the globe, including Cambodia, Armenia, Bangladesh, Mexico, Egypt, Philippines, Laos, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Romania, Macedonia, Albania and others.
The value of this work is readily apparent. For example, detection of the highly virulent avian influenza A(H7N9) in China in March 2013 led to the hasty development of virus-specific laboratory diagnostic tests and human vaccines. Should this virus re-emerge and pose a threat anywhere in the world, thanks to APHL and partners, the response will be swift.