Surveillance and control of arboviral diseases in the WHO African Region: assessment of country capacities

The growing threat and recent epidemics of Aedes-borne arboviral infections in Africa has put into question the adequacy of public health systems to control these vector-borne diseases. Adequacy relies on countries’ capacity to assure timely, effective epidemiological and entomological surveillance and control of arboviral diseases to identify, prevent and respond to outbreaks.

The Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), the WHO department of control of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) and the WHO Regional Office for Africa conducted a cross-sectional survey to determine the current capacity of countries in the African Region. A self-administered questionnaire covering seven relevant domains was used to measure capacity.

All 47 countries in the African Region contributed to the survey, and all the results for each dimension at regional and sub-regional levels are reported here. In general, the countries had adequate capacity for general disease surveillance, arbovirus diagnosis and notification and preparedness for disease outbreaks due to their long experience in the control of malaria and other diseases. Their capacities are not, however, adequately oriented to the surveillance and control of arboviral diseases, and huge gaps were identified in the management of cases and severe cases of arboviral diseases, virological surveillance, entomological surveillance and control of Aedes vectors and community sensitization and engagement related to arboviral diseases. The main challenge is the weakness of systems for arbovirus surveillance in humans, vectors and animals for early detection of outbreak events. Furthermore, despite the existence of a preparedness plan for outbreak events, cases and severe cases of arboviral diseases are not effectively managed in all countries because of lack of clinical knowledge and infrastructure.

The gaps explain current country status with regard to arbovirus transmission and/or the perceived risk of arboviral diseases outbreaks.

This report calls on countries to address the gaps in order to be adequately prepared for arboviral diseases. The gaps are summarized, and possible ways to move forward are proposed. Planning and addressing these gaps according to the local context will undoubtedly be significant for protecting communities against the growing threat of arboviral diseases in the African Region.

Source: World Health Organization