Determining the Severity of an Epidemic or Pandemic Using Influenza Surveillance Data

The Influenza Program and the Central America Regional Office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), and TEPHINET organized a Pandemic Influenza Severity Assessment (PISA) regional training workshop for Central America from June 18 to 20, 2019, in San Jose, Costa Rica.

The PISA tool, intended for use at the national level, is a framework for using existing influenza surveillance data to determine the severity of a current influenza epidemic or pandemic in comparison to those in the past.

The workshop targeted epidemiology officers, risk communications officers, and directors or supervisors of National Influenza Centers (NICs). NICs, of which there are 29 across the entire Americas Region, collect and perform preliminary analysis on influenza virus specimens in their countries. A total of 32 participants were trained from Bolivia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

During the training, participants learned how to describe the epidemiological situation and analyze data to calculate the severity of an influenza epidemic or pandemic in order to inform national and global risk assessments; public health preparedness, response and recovery measures; and resource allocation.

Participants selected epidemiologic and virologic indicators to measure the transmissibility of influenza, its severity and its impact each season. They also learned how to interpret and report the PISA indicators to WHO and how to communicate them to internal and external stakeholders through a mock Q&A with journalists and government authorities. Representatives from the ministries of health of Colombia and Paraguay were also present to share their countries’ experiences with PISA.

A free, self-paced, online course on PISA is available on OpenWHO.