Volume 2, Number 1—January 1996
News and Notes
Regional Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases Sparks Plan for Increased Collaboration
The World Health Organization (WHO), the Naval Medical Research Unit Three (NAMRU-3), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) jointly sponsored the first conference in the region on issues of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases for members of WHO's Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO). The meeting was held in Cairo, Egypt, November 26-29, 1995. Delegates from the WHO South-East Asia Regional Office and African Regional Office also participated.
The meeting brought together persons representing key resources that have begun working together to organize a regional program of laboratory assistance and enhanced surveillance communications for infectious diseases. Participants included WHO infectious disease program officers and key personnel from WHO collaborating centers, national reference laboratories, national infectious disease programs, ministries of health, and university public health programs. Thirty countries were represented by more than 200 participants. On the final day of the conference, the participants adopted a regional plan of action for strengthening surveillance, laboratory capabilities, and communications.
To begin this cooperative effort, a 1-day meeting of WHO-EMRO collaborating centers was convened on November 30. Representatives from six EMRO collaborating centers attended as well as representatives from WHO-EMRO, WHO headquarters, CDC, the Naval Medical Research Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Battelle Foundation.
Participants noted that WHO collaborating centers are an excellent resource for the implementation of programs to address emerging infections because they represent some of the most competent and experienced diagnostic and reference capacities in the region. However, the representatives agreed that the relationships among the collaborating centers themselves are not well developed. Many were unaware of the existence or capabilities of most other regional collaborating centers and most had no regular communications or interactions with other collaborating centers. All welcomed closer ties with an increase in communication, collaboration, and interaction.
The participants unanimously approved a recommendation to establish an Association of EMRO collaborating centers composed of representatives from each WHO collaborating center within the region. Member organizations of the association will work together, in coordination with EMRO, to address the complex needs of surveillance, laboratory diagnostics, and disease reporting of emerging infections at the local and regional level.