The pathogens do not carry passports and can cross all the frontiers at will.

Three years ago we were all scared that the Ebola virus outbreak that started in Western Africa would spread to the rest of the planet unhindered. There was a health system failure in the three countries involved as the Ebola virus data arrived to the Public Health functionaries in a hotch-potch of formats, which could not be analyzed fast and efficiently enough for a good response.

An editorial at “The Lancet Global Health” quoted Kevin De Cock, director at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who said: “there was a ‘chasm’ between laboratory and clinical practice. The turning point came with the institution of CDC-assisted incident management systems, which rapidly improved coordination and reporting structures, and set clear goals and expectations.”

In January the members of the African Society for Laboratory Medicine met in Cape Town where they decided to create an “African CDC” in order to count with the necessary facilities and trained personnel “in situ” for the next dangerous pandemia. The design and implementation of modern and reliable laboratory facilities coupled with the professional training of personnel is considered as the first step in the long process of modernization.

The African Union’s Agenda for 2016 showed the impact of these factors:

  1. Rapid population growth
  2. Increased movement of people across the frontiers
  3. Existing endemic and emerging infectious diseases
  4. Resistance to the first line antibiotics
  5. High infant and Maternal mortality rates
  6. Insufficient and inefficient Public Health assets

The embryonic African CDC and its partner organizations like the WHO and nation-states decided to strengthen the capacity in four priority areas:

  1. Modern information systems to reach critical decisions much faster
  2. Linked clinical laboratories in five regions of the continent
  3. Support of national Public Health preparedness and response plans
  4. Develop Public Health knowledge and practice at a local level.

Based in Addis Ababa, the African CDC will operate in a decentralized way with five Regional Collaborating centres in Egypt, Nigeria, Gabon, Zambia and Kenya with fully equipped laboratory and advanced diagnostics sites, which will be closer to the involved member states in case of an emergency. The new CDC will promote the establishment of National Public Health Institutes (NPHI) in each member state to obtain a legal mandate for action.

They are planning to develop a more efficient response system that does not rely solely in the dispatch of supplies and personnel from developed nations; they will design a surge capacity with stockpiles in the regional centers.

In the initial stage of a disease outbreak, a few days can make a difference. Considering all the public health implications for the rest of the planet, this novel African initiative must be supported by all the national governments.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.


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