Disease Outbreak Prevention: What Is Outbreak Preparedness?
- Legislation and financing
- Zoonotic events
- Food safety
- Human resources
- Health emergency framework
- Health service provision
- Risk communication
- Points of entry
- Chemical events
- Radiation emergencies
- Vaccination programmes for measles;
- Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for cholera;
- Preparing for diseases with a high probability of occurring e.g. an endemic disease with predictable seasonal peaks, such as Lassa fever in Nigeria or plague in Madagascar;
- Preparing for diseases that have a particularly severe health impact e.g. an influenza pandemic.
Why is preparedness essential to the outbreak response cycle?The outbreak response cycle (Figure 1) defines the key steps needed for an effective response. The cycle should be continuous: outbreak preparedness provides a strong foundation for early detection enabling a prompt and effective response, and the learning from this process informs preparation for future outbreak detection and response to strengthen the system in advance of the next outbreak.Figure 1 Cycle of Outbreak Preparedness & Response
Rationale For & Advantages of Preparedness
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Disease Outbreaks in Low and Middle Income Countries
Logistic support and mobile laboratory vehicles prepared for deployment, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Abuja, Nigeria
© Louis Leeson/LSHTM
How do you develop a system for being prepared?There are a number of key considerations in outbreak preparedness:
- All individuals and organisations involved in the detection and response stages should be clear on their own and others’ roles and responsibilities. This is best achieved by engaging all stakeholders at an early stage and collaborating in the development of preparedness plans.
- Communications within and between organisations involved in outbreak response should be established as part of the preparedness plan. This includes planning for how and when outbreak-related information should be communicated and shared, for example surveillance data and laboratory results. Particular consideration should be given to any barriers to communication between organisations, and how sensitive data (e.g. patient-identifiable information) will be shared.
- Plans and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) should be developed, shared, and tested. Testing though desk-top and simulation exercises is an important step in order to identify any barriers to implementation of the plan, for example inadequacies in communication mechanisms. Planning should take into account the limitations of the existing systems and infrastructure, while at the same time considering priorities for systems strengthening. This may, for example identify single points of failure, pinch points and bottlenecks, or the need for surge capacity.
- Logistics during an outbreak require planning and expertise and should be integral to the preparedness plan. Logistics functions may include the maintenance and distribution of vaccines; handling and managing the transport of infectious substances for laboratory testing; and coordinating operations during outbreaks3.
- Security of staff involved in the response, including biosecurity for laboratory staff handling dangerous pathogens, requires advanced planning to ensure the correct equipment, resources and training are in place.
- An important aspect of the IHR is the obligation for all parties to develop, strengthen and maintain core public health capacities for surveillance and response. Therefore, strengthening IHR capabilities is a crucial element of outbreak preparedness. Analyses of the West African Ebola outbreak identified that a lack of compliance with the IHR was a significant failure in the response2.
One HealthAs we have seen earlier in the course, the World Health Organization defines One Health as “an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes,” in particular in the areas of food safety, the control of zoonoses and combating antimicrobial resistance (AMR)4. This collaborative approach can support earlier detection and more effective outbreak response, and should be built in to the preparedness plan.Human and veterinary sectors working together and sharing information is particularly important, for example, an outbreak of a pathogen detected in animals can be prevented or contained by reducing animal-to-human transmission. For example, vaccination of livestock for Rift Valley Fever and restricting their movement can prevent outbreaks in both livestock and humans. This is of particular concern for emerging human pathogens, 70% of which come from animals5.Outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, such as Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhi (which causes typhoid), are a particular threat to human health. Collaboration between the human, animal and environmental sectors is needed in order to reduce the development of AMR.Outbreak preparedness is an essential component of the outbreak response cycle. This is a key requirement of the International Health Regulations in order for countries to be able to provide health security for their citizens. Preparing for outbreaks and other hazards needs careful planning and adequate resources, but when it is done well it has been shown to be highly effective in reducing the human and economic costs of outbreaks.
Disease Outbreaks in Low and Middle Income Countries
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