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FAO ACTIONS IN RESPONSE TO THE NOVEL INFLUENZA-A/H1N1 CRISIS

 

Mission to Mexico: The CMC-AH Rapid Response

FAO first learned of the novel strain of influenza A/H1N1 on 24 April 2009 through the Global Early Warning and Response System for Transboundary Animal Diseases (GLEWS), the joint system combining and coordinating the alert and response mechanisms of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organization (WHO) and FAO to assist in prediction, prevention and control of animal disease threats, including zoonoses. Upon identifying areas in which FAO could support the Mexican authorities, FAO offered assistance to the government on 27 April, which was accepted that same day.

 

FAO deployed a CMC-AH mission on 29 April, just two days after Mexico accepted FAO’s offer of assistance. The goal of the mission, which is being implemented in collaboration with OIE, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organismo Internacional Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaria (OIRSA) and other partners, is to support government efforts to assess the potential linkage to pigs, strengthen laboratory diagnostic capacity and enhance animal disease surveillance activities. A targeted laboratory capacity building programme for short- and medium- to long-term has been prepared and is already underway. Reagents are being shipped to Mexico from the USDA/SEPRL laboratory to help improve diagnosis procedures. Since the start of H1N1 events, the Mexican authorities have stepped up surveillance activities. The mission team is working with the veterinary services to develop an action plan to complement their efforts to further enhance epidemiologic surveillance in the immediate future. The mission is working closely with the Mexican veterinary services, particularly with the “Dirección General Salud Animal” at SENASICA (Servicio Nacional de Sanidad, Inocuidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria), and liaising with WHO and national public health teams.

 

Daily Monitoring and Tracking of the Influenza-A/H1N1 Situation

FAO has been monitoring the Influenza-A/H1N1 situation on a daily basis in coordination with OIE, WHO, the United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other partners through GLEWS (Global Early Warning and Response System). GLEWS monitors information (including the tracking of rumours and media reports) and conducts analyses to help assess outbreaks and epidemiological events of national/international significance.

 

Guidance to Countries

FAO has established a dedicated web-space. Through this platform, FAO is disseminating public information and technical guidance to countries and partners.

Through a series of media releases, official statements, and a series of communiqués from the FAO CVO, a wide range of information is being regularly updated and disseminated. Through the OFFLU network, FAO is working with international veterinary labs to identify adapted testing procedures and protocols to differentiate the novel A/H1N1 virus from normally circulating swine influenza.  Furthermore, through a dedicated H1N1 web-space, FAO has published general technical guidance for the international shipment of samples for laboratory diagnostics including a list of international veterinary diagnostic laboratories for submission of suspected A/H1N1 swine samples or isolates.

 

Coordination for Pandemic Preparedness and Response

The world is currently at Phase-5 of the WHO-defined six-step pandemic alert level, suggesting that an influenza pandemic may be imminent. In order to respond rapidly and effectively to the potential humanitarian consequences of a full-blown pandemic if it were to emerge, FAO through the Emergency Operation and Rehabilitation Division is fully involved in interagency consultations coordinated by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In case of a pandemic, as lead agency for the Agriculture sector, FAO will take all necessary actions to protect and restore the livelihoods of those who may be affected. The involvement of FAO in such a response is in line with the Joint Declaration on Humanitarian Cooperation in Pandemic Preparedness and Response that FAO and 20 other UN agencies, International Organizations, NGOs, NGO consortia and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies signed in October 2007.