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FLURISK: understanding risk factors for pandemic influenza

23 November 2012 - From 6 to 7 November 2012 FAO hosted the 2nd Interim Meeting of the FLURISK project consortium. This project focuses on the development and validation of an influenza risk assessment framework (IRAF) for the ranking of animal influenza A strains in their potential to cross the species barrier and cause human infection. The project started in February 2012 and has a duration of 20 months.

In an effort to better understand risk factors for pandemic influenza at the human animal interface, the central questions that will be addressed by FLURISK are:

  1. What is the current knowledge on the influenza virus etiology and epidemiology in animals?
  2. What are the scientific community and institutional stakeholders doing in terms of influenza virus surveillance, monitoring and control?
  3. What is the evidence for animal to human transmission of animal influenza viruses and how is this identified by existing surveillance?
  4. What are the scientific gaps still present that need to be urgently identified and addressed through focused research priorities?
  5. What are the viral characteristics associated with the potential of an animal influenza A virus to cross the species barrier and cause human infection?
  6. What are the epidemiological risk factors associated with influenza viruses transmitting between species, and drivers of influenza spread within animal populations?
  7. How can we grade the pandemic risk posed by a given animal influenza A virus?

To address these questions FLURISK brings together recognized human and veterinary medicine European research institutes, reference laboratories and universities fostering cross-disciplinary expertise and collaborations. Members of the project consortium are the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (IZSVe, Project Coordinator), Italy, the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), United Kingdom, the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), London, United Kingdom, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Netherlands, the Institut Pasteur (IP), France, the University of Ghent (UGhent), Belgium and two external consulting agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, Italy and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, USA. Experts from OIE, ECDC, WHO and OFFLU are also being invited to take part in relevant meetings and activities of the project as external observers and advisors.

The main product of the FLURISK project will be an influenza risk assessment framework that ranks animal influenza A strains in their potential to cross the species barrier and cause human infection. The tool will provide an open, documented and systematic approach for identifying and evaluating influenza viruses with pandemic potential by considering all known relevant risk factors. It is intended to inform the decision-making process of identifying and controlling animal influenzas that pose most threat to humans, from a global perspective.

Project Coordinator: Ilaria Capua (IZSVe)
Project Manager: Marco De Nardi (IZSVe)
FAO Focal Point: Sophie VonDobschuetz (FAO)



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