Improving influenza surveillance in sub-Saharan Africa
C Steffen, F Debellut, BD Gessner, FC Kasolo, AA Yahaya, N Ayebazibwe, O Bassong, Y Cardoso, S Kebede, S Manoncourt, KA Vandemaele & AW Mounts
Little is known about the burden of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa. Routine influenza surveillance is key to getting a better understanding of the impact of acute respiratory infections on sub-Saharan African populations.
A project known as Strengthening Influenza Sentinel Surveillance in Africa (SISA) was launched in Angola, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zambia to help improve influenza sentinel surveillance, including both epidemiological and virological data collection, and to develop routine national, regional and international reporting mechanisms. These countries received technical support through remote supervision and onsite visits. Consultants worked closely with health ministries, the World Health Organization, national influenza laboratories and other stakeholders involved in influenza surveillance
Influenza surveillance systems in the target countries were in different stages of development when SISA was launched. Senegal, for instance, had conducted virological surveillance for years, whereas Sierra Leone had no surveillance activity at all.
Working documents such as national surveillance protocols and procedures were developed or updated and training for sentinel site staff and data managers was organized.
Targeted support to countries can help them strengthen national influenza surveillance, but long-term sustainability can only be achieved with external funding and strong national government leadership.