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Roundtable Meeting on Zika Virus: Improving Detection, Preparedness, and Response, Through Surveillance and Research 

Bali, kabarnusantara.net – Global interconnectedness between countries has contributed to the increased transmission of global emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. International travel across borders has become the main risk factor for disease spread from one place to another. Each person returning from a country with active local transmission is a risk factor for the entire country he/she is visiting after. One of the current infectious disease threats that has travelled across continents is Zika virus.

Data shows that prior to 2015, Zika virus outbreaks have occurred in some areas of Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific Islands. During May 2015, the infection travelled west across the globe to South America, culminating in the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issuing an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika infection in Brazil. In February 2016, the WHO (World Health Organization) declared Zika as a Public Health Emergency of International Concerns (PHEIC), and advocated for ring-fenced resources for further investigation of the virus. WHO warns that more countries may be affected by Zika virus given the ease of transportation across borders.

Although research has intensified during the latest outbreak, currently there is no treatment or vaccine for Zika Virus. A recent study from the Imperial College of London1 predicted that Zika virus spread will end in the next three years because the virus is unable to infect the same person twice as more people become infected. The study further mentioned that the transmission will reach a period where the infection levels fall and the epidemic ends. It might take another 10 years for the virus to infect a new generation. This study illuminated a need to map risk factors of Zika virus in the future as well as other similar potential viral infections.

The global threat of the disease should unite experts across countries and institutions to collaborate before another global outbreak occurs. A global connection across countries could develop the capacity to prevent, predict, detect, respond, and report as part of an action plan geared towards improving the control of vector borne viruses across the globe. The Zika virus outbreak is an example that calsl for a coordinated approach across borders and geographical regions in order to manage risk and mitigate against large outbreaks, as has been seen in the Americas.

Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs) as a cross regional problem deserves to be discussed among experts in the field from across regions. CORDS (Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance) as a network of 28 countries in six regions is committed to work together in improving each country’s competence to share best practices in vector control with One Health. APEIR (Asian Partnership on Emerging Infectious Disease Research) as one of the CORDS network in South East Asia and China is a group of researchers and policy makers aiming to collaborate across countries to produce scholar work on preventing emerging infectious diseases in Asia.

In responding to this need, we aim to gather representatives of the CORDS network countries at a global meeting to discuss future collaboration through research. The network could conduct a mapping strategy of strength and challenges to anticipate future similar vector control. CORDS networks have been actively involved in Zika virus and have extensive experience with other vector control for Dengue, Malaria, Yellow Fever and Chikunguya. The networks work together to improve each country’s competence to improve compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 and share best practices in vector control under a One Health approach. This meeting would be a good opportunity to transfer knowledge in Zika virus management as well as other similar vector control from each of the network.

The meeting will be held on 17-18 November 2016) and consist of two parts; i) roundtable meeting and ii) workshop, to exchange knowledge among experts from different backgrounds and countries within the CORDS network. The roundtable discussion will allow the participants to share successful measures to handle the epidemic and planning for comprehensive resource mobilization and in tackling the issue for the future. In addition, the workshop will accommodate crucial ideas in anticipating future emerging infectious diseases through collaborative research. The meeting would further strengthen the network by fostering harmonized information and knowledge sharing.

The Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is a reminder of the importance of foreseeing the relationship between human, animal and environment as a preventable disease across the global region. The outbreak is a rich source of lessons learned for other countries with active transmission areas and will contribute to building robust preparedness, preventative measures and control strategies if an outbreak occurs. This meeting will facilitate CORDS network in treating ZIKA virus and other similar vector borne viruses as a preventable disease once i tis anticipated and planned for. (Hip/KbN)

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