Mapping the Risk and Distribution of Epidemics in the WHO African Region: a technical report

from World Health Organization
Published on 01 May 2016 View Original

Disease epidemics result in substantial ill health and loss of lives and therefore pose a threat to global health security, undermine socio-economic lives and destabilize societies.

Disease surveillance is a critical component in detecting and effectively responding to epidemics to minimize loss of live and their disruptive consequences. Carefully assembled surveillance data at the highest possible spatial resolutions also permit the understanding of the burden of epidemics, their co-occurrence and the key biological, ecological, economic, health system and governance determinants.

It is for this purpose that the WHO-AFRO has commissioned this report. The overarching objective was to develop a comprehensive spatially defined database of outbreaks and epidemics and delineate the ecological zones of diseases that are classified as Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) according the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 and malaria.

The main tasks included the assembly of an inventory of all epidemics reported in Africa from 1970-2016 characterised by date of occurrence, length of epidemic and magnitude and district of occurrence; definition of ecological zones of PHEIC diseases and malaria; the assembly of data on important socio-economic, health systems and environmental correlate and an basic statistical analysis of their relationship with occurrence and frequency of epidemics and outbreaks.

Through this study, several products have been developed including time series graphs of outbreak and epidemic occurrence by country, maps of the ecologies of the PHEIC diseases and epidemics, the distribution of these diseases by district. The databases and maps produced in this report should be considered as the foundation for tracking epidemics sub-nationally within the WHO African region. However, they require continuous verification, improvements in spatial resolution and regular updating. Finally, these data can also serve as the inputs for disease specific risk and vulnerability analysis.