Regional Surveillance Network Tracking Spread Of COVID-19

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, says the COVID-19 Genomic Surveillance Regional Network has been instrumental in tracking the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) across the Americas.

She noted that the network has, so far, detected at least one of the four current variants of concern – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta – in 47 regional countries, while all have been identified in another 11.

The network comprises laboratories in member countries that analyse samples from across the Americas and provide timely information on the findings.

“Thanks to the efforts of countries across the Americas, our region has built a robust and innovative surveillance network that enables us to keep a close eye on the emergence and spread of COVID-19 variants,” the Director said.

She was speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Wednesday (July 21).

Noting that the platform was established in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, to tackle the “eventual arrival” of the variants, Dr. Etienne said the facility has expanded from a “handful” of laboratories into a robust network of 24 labs.

She indicated that PAHO has been supporting the network by standardising laboratory protocols, conducting trainings, and donating supplies to countries that have the technology to test and analyse samples.

“In places that haven’t yet built up the laboratory capacity, PAHO has been working to collect samples and to ship these off to network labs. By working together, countries can detect new variants faster and more cost effectively than by working alone,” she pointed out.

The Director said, in so doing, “we can detect changes in the clinical presentation of the disease or its transmission patterns and quickly adjust measures, such as vaccinations, therapeutics and diagnoses”.

Additionally, she said countries can activate contact tracing and other public measures to limit the variants’ circulation.

“The information gathered by the network is also proving useful for scientists and epidemiologists around the World as they learn how the virus is changing to ensure that our responses remain effective,” she emphasised.

Dr. Etienne said that while the network is focused on COVID-19 surveillance, it can be easily adapted to identify other viruses and emerging pathogens.

This, she added, “so long as our region continues to invest in the training, material, and human resources that it will take for a [facility] like this to function well”.

“The COVID-19 Genomics Surveillance Regional Network is an example of the power of Pan-Americanism and the importance of working together to control this virus,” Dr. Etienne said.

WRITTEN BY: DOUGLAS MCINTOSH

Source: JIS News

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