NCDC celebrates the First World Field Epidemiology Day

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AS the coordinating agency of the Nigeria Field Epidemiology Training Programme, NFETP, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC joins TEPHINET and the rest of the world to celebrate World Field Epidemiology Day on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 through action, communication, and advocacy.

Epidemiology is at the heart of our work at NCDC in leading the prevention, preparedness for, detection and response to public health threats in Nigeria.

In his address to the leadership of Nigeria’s health sector at the 2017 National Council on Health, the NCDC Director-General Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu – a trained field epidemiologist – had the following to say:

“Strengthening your State Epidemiology Team may not be your biggest achievement, but a weak team is your biggest source of risk. At NCDC, our vision is to have field epidemiologists seeded in every part of public health in Nigeria.”

As Nigeria’s national public health institute, NCDC remains strongly committed to strengthening the NFETP, and works closely with the Africa Field Epidemiology Network, AFENET, US Centers for Disease Control, World Bank and other partners.

The NFETP is a competency-based training and service programme in applied epidemiology and public health that builds capacity in strengthening disease surveillance and response systems. In the last five years, NCDC has led the strengthening of NFETP as field epidemiologists from Nigeria contribute to national, regional and global health security.

Residents and graduates of NFETP have played major roles in Nigeria’s outbreak response. Within two days of reporting the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria in 2014, 15 field epidemiologists of the FETP were deployed to the affected areas. At the peak of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the highest cohort of field epidemiologists were deployed from Nigeria through AFENET to support affected countries – Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, in areas of case identification, reporting, analysis and risk communication etc.

The past year has also brought unprecedented visibility to the work of field epidemiologists as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We continue to promote improved understanding of the importance of field epidemiology and advocate for increased support to strengthen public health systems to better detect and respond to outbreaks.

“We have included an excerpt of this Nature article to highlight the importance of this life-saving profession and show – ‘how epidemiology has shaped the COVID-19 pandemic.’ Epidemiology’s early role,” the NCDC said in a statement.

It is now more than a year since reports began to emerge of a previously unknown coronavirus causing pneumonia-like symptoms. By 5 January 2020, the virus was reported to have infected 59 people in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province; 7 were in critical condition.

By 20 January, the Chinese authorities had reported more than 200 infections and 3 deaths.

Initially, little was known about the virus’s transmissibility, but that quickly changed. By about the middle of January, epidemiologists began reporting the results of modelling studies, which indicated that case numbers were likely to be much higher than had initially been documented. In these first weeks, researchers were working with limited patient data.

However, as more data became available, epidemiologists were able to confirm that the virus could be transmitted by people showing no symptoms and that it had high pandemic potential. Taken together, these studies helped to alert many governments to the fact that the situation might be much more severe than they had anticipated. The findings suggested that hospitals worldwide needed to prepare for a high number of admissions to intensive care.

At the end of January, the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, which included advice for countries on implementing public-health measures, including testing and isolating infected people, and tracing and quarantining their contacts.

These moves were based, in part, on research done by epidemiologists after previous infectious disease outbreaks.

“If the past year has taught us anything, it is that knowledge of public-health tools and access to data is not enough to control a pandemic. People have a natural desire for certainty in the face of something as alarming as a pandemic, yet the science informing the pandemic response, by its nature, operates through probabilities. This does not diminish the impact of epidemiology, but, rather, highlights the importance of maintaining a continuous and transparent conversation between researchers, policymakers and the public” – Nature.

- Sept. 08, 2021 @ 09:47 GMT |

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