On 10–11 January 2013, over 50 international experts from science, policy, the media and academia met at Sussex University for a workshop to discuss what recent controversies can teach us about possible future responses to pandemic influenza outbreaks.
The workshop, convened by the Economic & Social Research Council STEPS Centre and the Centre for Global Health Policy, examined in depth why controversies have emerged around pandemic flu, in order to inform future approaches.
Veterinary epidemiologist Jeff Mariner represented the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) at the workshop as an invited panellist speaking on experiences with participatory surveillance in control of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
Mariner said that HPAI has largely settled down to become endemic in those countries with dense and complex poultry populations and faded out from countries that were not very well suited to sustained transmission.
“The HPAI control programs had little impact in changing the epidemiological course of evolution of the epidemic, and the response to HPAI to large extent ignored key lessons from previous successful disease control activities,” he observed.
“The emergency response approach led investments to have limited sustained impact as they did not address the fundamental institutional issues and the limited capacity of host-country services to absorb the large amounts of money allocated,” he added.
In conclusion, Mariner proposed that in the future, pandemic preparedness should focus on long-term capacity building rather than short-term emergency responses.