Health officers in Seychelles met to validate the country's version of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) in a workshop held on Thursday.
Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response is a comprehensive, evidence-based strategy for strengthening national public health surveillance and response systems in African countries.
First rolled out in 2002, the guideline covers all major diseases and events that can cause an epidemic or a disaster in a country.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, will be the first country in Africa to adapt and adopt the third edition of the guidelines.
"Today we have regrouped other partners and professionals to see if what is being presented as the adaptation is adequate for Seychelles, if there are areas that need to be relooked at and at the end of the day we want to have a draft that we will call the 'Adapted guidelines for Seychelles for the surveillance of Diseases'," said Seychelles' principal health commissioner, Jude Gedeon.
In order to strengthen the capacities of member states in the region to prevent, detect, and respond to public health emergencies within the framework of the regional strategy for health security and emergencies, there is a need to scale up and sustain the implementation of IDSR.
A revision of the second edition was required so as to draw lessons for recent events that have affected the African continent such as the Zika virus, listeria food contamination, rift valley fever, ongoing threats from the El Nino weather pattern among other issues.
Gedeon said the third edition also sees the introduction of new sections such as "electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (e-IDSR), risk communication and how a country adapt in a situation of emergency when systems are down."
"For two weeks now, a group of WHO consultants have been working on the revision of the generic guideline and we adapted it to the context of Seychelles. A lot of things do not apply to us as a small country, as some types of diseases that affect us differ from other countries," he said.
Gedeon explained that Seychelles is adding some diseases to the existing list. These include leptospirosis, cancer, diseases caused by toxins found in fish. There is also a change in regards to the level of health surveillance.
As a small country, Seychelles has only three levels of surveillance - community, health facility and central.
Following the validation of the document, the health ministry will be organising a week-long training for trainers next week, which will be followed by will be the training of a rapid response team.
"A group of local experts health professionals will be trained on how to train other people in the clinic, private practices and other agencies such as the police, DRDM, and the ministry of education. They will be our eyes and ears in the community," said Gedeon.
The rapid response team will learn how to react in the case of an emergency.
The final version of the 'Adapted Guidelines for Seychelles for the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response' is expected to be ready in two weeks. It will be printed in six booklets. These will be distributed to all health facilities and made available to the public as well. An electronic version of the document will also be available.