The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday released a Global Influenza Strategy for 2019-2030 aimed at protecting people in all countries from the threat of influenza. Experts at the Indian Council of Medical Research and Pune-based National Institute of Virology have said that their strategy was in line with the one released by WHO and due emphasis has been given on strengthening and building the capacity of virus diagnostic laboratories across the country.
Influenza remains one of the world’s greatest public health challenges.
Every year across the globe, there are an estimated 1 billion cases, of which 3 to 5 million are severe cases, resulting in 2,90,000 to 6,50,000 influenza-related respiratory deaths.
The goal of the strategy is to prevent seasonal influenza, control the spread of influenza from animals to humans, and prepare for the next influenza pandemic. A statement issued on Monday said that the threat of pandemic influenza is ever-present.
According to WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “The ongoing risk of a new influenza virus transmitting from animals to humans and potentially causing a pandemic is real. The question is not if we will have another pandemic, but when. We must be vigilant and prepared — the cost of a major influenza outbreak will far outweigh the price of prevention.”
WHO recommends annual influenza vaccination as the most effective way to prevent influenza.
Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of serious influenza complications and for healthcare workers.
The new strategy is the most comprehensive and far-reaching that WHO has ever developed for influenza.
It has two overarching goals: Build stronger country capacities for disease surveillance and response, prevention and control, and preparedness. To achieve this, it calls for every country to have a tailored influenza programme that contributes to national and global preparedness and health security. Develop better tools to prevent, detect, control and treat influenza, such as more effective vaccines, antivirals and treatments, with the goal of making these accessible for all countries.
For more than 65 years, the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), comprised of WHO Collaborating Centres and national influenza centres, have worked together to monitor seasonal trends and potentially pandemic viruses.
This system serves as the backbone of the global alert system for influenza.