From 4 to 6 December 2018, the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) will participate in a global pandemic response simulation exercise.
The exercise will simulate an outbreak of influenza with pandemic potential on the fictional island nation of Mizzou, located off the coast of North America. National EOCs participating in the interactive scenario will respond to emailed inputs and other forms of communication from the control team for the exercise.
Coordinated by the Global EOC of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the EOC Network (a global network of health emergency operations centres), the exercise will involve 40 countries and will test their response to this pandemic, interoperability and coordination among participating Public Health Emergency Operation Centres (PHEOCs).
“We will test our communication with PHEOCs in African Union Member States, and with the WHO Africa (AFRO) and Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) regional offices to ensure better preparedness and response to similar emergencies whenever it occurs,” said Dr Wessam Mankuola, Emergency Preparedness and Response Lead at Africa CDC.
Dr Mankuola however warns that this is only a test operation and not a real live situation, and as such there should be no panic by members of the public.
“There is no actual virus: this is an internet training exercise, which will take place only within the offices of national and international EOCs. There is no deployment of people or goods and the exercise will not affect private, public or official activity,” said Dr Mankuola.
This exercise is being held on the centenary of the 1918 influenza pandemic (“Spanish flu”), which is estimated to have infected one-third of the global population and resulted in the death of millions of people. The most recent global flu pandemic occurred about a decade ago and these events occur periodically; it is only a matter of time before another global pandemic occurs.
Africa CDC and African Union Member States have been working diligently with WHO to prepare to respond to any form of outbreaks in the future. The exercise will allow participating countries to test their plans and capabilities in a realistic environment and gain in-depth experience that can only be achieved by practice.
Evaluators from Asia, North America, Europe and Africa will watch how the participating EOCs perform in real time and measure their performance against expectations.
The exercise will help identify gaps and opportunities and ultimately help in assessing and improving the preparedness of Member States to respond jointly and effectively to a global public health emergency.