Experts moot revised influenza pandemic preparedness plan

Experts moot revised influenza pandemic preparedness plan

Are we sufficiently prepared to face an influenza pandemic of high severity? That was the question around which the five-day hands-on training workshop on Influenza Surveillance, Diagnosis and Control revolved at the Manipal Centre for Virus Research here at Manipal University.

“There is a need for public-private health care partnerships, research and training facilities to health care providers and supporting staff, involvement of government organisations, a well-knit information sharing network and a revised influenza pandemic preparedness plan incorporating recent experiences,” said  World Health Organisation (WHO) country office (India)  Microiology  National Professional Officer Dr Ritu Chauhan.

The WHO-India sponsored workshop which began on Monday has microbiologists and technologists from state and district surveillance units of Kerala and Karnataka, medical colleges and ICMR Grade1 virology laboratories across the country.  

Senior government officials from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), New Delhi, were the main resource persons for the workshop, which concluded on Friday.

“At the time of the pandemic outbreak in 2009, the physicians, scientists and research community felt lack of proper surveillance system, laboratory facilities, inadequate hospital infrastructure for patient care and vaccine dissemination. The need to adopt a strategic approach was felt by the group of health care providers,” said EMR, DGHS (New Delhi)  Director Dr P Ravindran.


“Rapid response and containment strategies were required which led the Ministry of Health take appropriate actions such as coordinate with all health care departments, professionals and strengthen the existing infrastructure to accommodate the victims. This led to implementation of intrastate co-ordination of health care facilities by the Government of India,” Dr P Ravindran added.

“There were very few labs to conduct viral testing and inadequate data to support the findings. In that situation, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and National Institute of Virology (NIV) were the only two centers to support sample testing. Obstacles such as huge inflow of samples, high levels of panic among masses, lack of awareness, shipment issues, etc. emerged,” said NIV Pune Director Dr A C Mishra.

Elaborating, Dr Shashi Khare, the Additional Director and Head of Microbiology Division, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), DGHS, MoHFW, Gov of India, said, “The dearth for diagnostic reagents was felt by most clinicians with a constant pressure on these two labs from Central and state governments to meet up with the increasing demands. Later on, 18 diagnostic labs (MCVR being one) were established, with a current status of 46 well-equipped labs across the country.”

“Alertness pays and it paid off well during the outbreak in 2011 and 2012,” said Dr Amar Fettle, H1N1 state Nodal Officer, Kerala.

That’s the reason why the intensity of the pandemic from 2009 till 2012 has been perceived as, ‘not so severe,’ he added.

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