Field Notes from FETPs Fighting COVID-19: June 2020
Vietnam Field Epidemiology Training Program
Vietnam was considered highly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to its long land border with China, large population, and other factors; yet, the country has reported only 335 cases and no deaths as of June 17, 2020. Vietnam’s strategy for fighting the disease has included strict screening at points of entry, aggressive contact tracing and testing, as well as a “whole-of-society” approach that engages multi-sectoral stakeholders in the response.
Thirty-six graduates of the advanced-level FETP, six two-year fellows, and approximately 600 graduates of the FETP short course have joined the response by conducting health screenings and contact tracing, supporting quarantine activities, conducting surveillance and data analysis, and developing and revising national guidelines for COVID-19 surveillance, control, and prevention, among other activities. In the spring, FETP fellows deployed to northern Vietnam to investigate 51 cases and approximately 1,000 contacts in two major outbreaks.
The FETP also has developed various tools for data collection and analysis. For example, in response to a need to visualize social network data, the FETP developed Dandelion, a social network-mapping application using open source programming.
Zimbabwe Field Epidemiology Training Program (ZimFETP)
Prior to Zimbabwe’s first case of COVID-19, ZimFETP developed and distributed informational materials for the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC), including 20,000 flyers, 500 posters, and items bearing COVID-19 prevention messages, such as t-shirts and pens. Nearly 50 residents participated in a door-to-door awareness campaign that reached more than 1,800 households. The program also conducted a knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) study among residents of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital.
When the country went under lockdown, FETP residents conducting data collection in the field were initially unable to move freely to conduct their studies. As a solution, residents were provided with MOHCC identification cards enabling them to move about as essential workers.
ZimFETP graduates have taken on several leadership roles in the COVID-19 response. At the MOHCC head office, the acting permanent secretary of health is an FETP graduate, as are two out of three chief directors, 10 directors and deputy directors, and four Health Studies Office directors and coordinators who are part of the National COVID-19 Task Force. At the provincial level, eight of out 10 provincial medical directors are ZimFETP graduates, and they oversee all COVID-19 activities in their provinces. Eight out of 10 provincial epidemiology and disease control officers are graduates and oversee all infectious disease surveillance activities in their provinces. At the city health directorate level, five directors in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Kadoma, and Kwekwe are ZimFETP graduates; several more graduates work as epidemiologists and program managers. In addition, nine graduates are working as contractors with Africa CDC to assist in COVID-19 response.
Mediterranean and Black Sea Field Epidemiology Training Program Network (MediPIET)
MediPIET is an advanced-level regional FETP serving countries in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa that surround the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The program has graduated 22 fellows from its first two cohorts and is now training 15 fellows in its third.
MediPIET fellows and graduates are serving as members of preparedness and response committees across the region. They are also involved in preparing communications materials (including information kits for journalists); conducting surveillance activities (including implementing real-time integrated syndromic surveillance of acute lower respiratory diseases using an e-health system); screening at points of entry; preparing laboratory capacity to manage large-scale testing for COVID-19, and developing guidelines for infection prevention and control and self-care of patients with mild symptoms.
Visit the MediPIET website to access the program’s COVID-19 Resource Center as well as its COVID-19 Webinar series featuring experts on a variety of topics.
Ethiopia Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program
As of May 2020, 138 residents and 81 graduates of the Ethiopia FELTP were involved in COVID-19 response at national and regional public health emergency operations centers (PHEOCs) and Africa CDC.
Graduates are leading the Incident Management System (IMS) and have taken on the roles of Deputy Incident Manager, Planning Section Chief, Points of Entry Screening Section Chief, and Quarantine Section Chief. Residents and graduates are involved in contact tracing, rapid response teams, screening at points of entry, call centers, emergency preparedness and response planning, protocol development, quarantine management and follow-up, risk communication and community engagement activities, and situation reporting.
Malaysia Epidemic Intelligence Program (EIP)
Ninety percent of the EIP’s basic- and intermediate-level trainees and graduates (63 individuals) are involved in COVID-19 response. Nearly 75 percent are involved in planning, coordination and monitoring at the national, state, and district levels. Trainees and graduates are involved in epidemiologic surveillance and data management, rapid response teams and case investigations, infection prevention and control, point of entry management, sampling, and laboratory testing. EIP graduates have participated in evacuation missions for repatriated Malaysians.
Nearly 23 percent of the intermediate trainees and graduates are participating in community engagement activities and nearly 41 percent in risk communication activities, such as appearances in local media, to raise awareness of COVID-19.
Caribbean Regional Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (CR-FELTP)
CR-FELTP has 96 Frontline graduates working in four countries, 130 Level I graduates working in 13 countries, and 10 Level II graduates working in six countries. These graduates have been busy with COVID-19 contact tracing, sample collection and testing, quarantine coordination and follow-up, port health activities for the region’s many ports, public awareness activities, training of healthcare workers, and data management and analysis. They also serve on the COVID-19 Task Force and Incident Management Teams.