WHO issues pandemic influenza surveillance standards

The World Health Organization recently released a set of standards designed to improve the global collection and use of influenza data.

The WHO issued the standards as a result of major gaps exposed during the 2009 influenza pandemic, according to CIDRAP News.

Before an analysis of the 2009 pandemic response, flu surveillance focused mostly on virologic monitoring and sample collection for the selection of strains to use in vaccines. The newly released standards focus on the collection, reporting and analysis of mostly epidemiological data.

The WHO recently posted the 68-page WHO Interim Global Epidemiologic Surveillance Standards for Influenza on its website. It is now looking for comments and ideas until October 31, after which the guidance will be revised and published in written form.

The report notes the need to gather more epidemiologic data to complement the virologic data collected through the 130-plus national influenza centers that are part of the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System, CIDRAP News reports.

The WHO said that surveillance data was lacking from the 2009 pandemic because of an absence of historical and surveillance data in most countries. Without such data, governments were unable to gauge the severity of the pandemic.

In addition, the lack of an international mechanism to share data and the varied approaches taken by individual countries created obstacles to understanding events in a global context.