Better disease surveillance needed

Measures needed to strengthen outbreak response

At a recent joint cross-border multi-sectoral disease surveillance meeting in Nimule, South Sudan, hosted by the Republic of South Sudan, experts discussed mechanisms to strengthen the implementation of cross-border disease surveillance and outbreak response in the region.

The meeting involved experts drawn from the human, animal, environmental health and immigration sectors of South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya and was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), the East African Community, the East Central and Southern Africa – Health Community (ECSA-HC) through the East Africa Public Laboratory Networking project and the countries’ respective Ministries of Health.

Disease outbreaks of international concern that have threatened the East African region include polio, yellow fever, Ebola, Marburg viral fever, Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever, Hepatitis E virus, cholera, measles, meningitis and rift valley fever. The meeting assessed current surveillance strategies, identified challenges and formulated plans to improve preparedness and response across the region.

“The risk of disease outbreaks is enhanced by increased cross-border trade, the movements of humans, animals and goods for trade, high population crowdedness, the effects of climate change, and proximity to the Congo basin hotspot and the characteristics of rift valley environment,” said Dr Joseph Wamala, Epidemiologist at WHO South Sudan. He said surveillance officers are required to strengthen joint cross-border disease surveillance and response.