05 February 2013 - Influenza A viruses originating from animals can adapt to the human host following mutation or by exchanging genes with human influenza viruses. Such viruses are feared to cause the next influenza pandemic given that the human population has not previously acquired sufficient immunity. Identification and characterization of influenza A viruses circulating in animals is therefore a prerequisite for pandemic preparedness and should be combined with a decision-making process to allow for appropriate follow-up or intervention.
In the framework of the FLURISK project, funded by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), we plan to assess capacity for early detection of potentially human pathogenic influenza viruses in animals on a global scale. This assessment will allow the identification of geographic areas and/or target species that would benefit from strengthened influenza surveillance activities. Results of the analysis will provide guidance to policy and decision makers at national and international level.
Specific objectives are:
- to review systems, tools and approaches for animal influenza surveillance and control strategies implemented globally;
- to describe and evaluate current monitoring of animal influenza viruses;
- to measure animal influenza surveillance coverage by country and species;
- to assess variation in animal influenza surveillance coverage on a global scale;
- to identify gaps or weaknesses in animal influenza surveillance globally.
A preliminary study using publically available data revealed that information on national or regional surveillance activities regarding influenza viruses in animals is scarce and scattered over the public domain. Furthermore, this information often lacks the necessary details when attempting to assess preparedness and response activities of countries or regions.
The only study undertaken so far in this field was implemented by the OIE/FAO Network of Expertise on Animal Influenza (OFFLU) in 2009 and describes surveillance strategies for highly pathogenic avian influenza in a subset of countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. Results of the OFFLU study, if still applicable, have been integrated in this review.
A database and related questionnaire were designed to collect information on influenza surveillance in animals, control actions taken once positives are being detected and communication of results. Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) have been contacted in January 2013 and asked to review the information that was collected by the FLURISK team, complement it if necessary and release it for publication.
The data will be analyzed using the following parameters:
- Surveillance type (active, passive, sentinel, participatory disease surveillance; objectives and purpose);
- Surveillance frequency (continuing, by rounds; at which time of the year);
- Targeted disease, population and production sector;
- Sustainability (funding sources);
- Surveillance results (case definition; positives found; sequencing performed: yes/no, to which extent);
- Control actions in case positives are detected (epidemiological investigation, vaccination, culling, movement control);
- Communication and reporting of results (to whom, by which means, frequency, sequences uploaded in public databases, if public health sector is alerted).
Analysis of these parameters will result in categorizing and weighting the reliability and geographical coverage of the animal influenza surveillance strategies in place. This will inform the assessment of capacity for early detection of potentially human pathogenic influenza viruses in animals on global scale. A summary report will be made available later this year.
FLURISK Project Coordinator: Ilaria Capua (IZSVe)
FLURISK Project Manager: Marco De Nardi (IZSVe)
FLURISK FAO Focal Point: Sophie VonDobschuetz (FAO)