It is difficult to predict what, when and where new health threats will emerge. That’s why the European Commission’s new strategic plan for the control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD) highlights improved early warning systems as a priority area. As part of this strategy, syndromic surveillance (SyS)(*) could be a very valuable tool to complement and integrate ongoing surveillance efforts to improve early detection and early warning for FAST (FMD, Rift Valley Fever, Peste des Petits Ruminants, Capripoxviruses and Lumpy Skin disease) and other transboundary diseases.
SAFOSO is supporting EuFMD to achieve the goal of FAST risk reduction by strengthening the skills and capacities of its member countries and their neighbouring regions in North Africa, Middle East and South-eastern Europe to develop and integrate a SyS.
As part of this effort, SAFOSO conducted a scoping review with a primary focus on global veterinary SyS initiatives on livestock animals, including initiatives in the targeted EuFMD regions. Out of all the screened scientific publications, about fifty were identified as relevant and included in the review.
SyS are most effective when designed as an additional complementing component to current surveillance efforts, through the integration of multiple information sources. In this way the overall coverage of livestock populations (including species not often targeted by surveillance efforts) can be expanded, potentially enabling earlier outbreak detection. However, most of the studies reviewed are exploring potential use of data for SyS rather than real SyS initiatives implemented in specific countries. This points to various ongoing challenges in implementing SyS, such as barriers to data sharing and integration due to the lack of commonly accepted standards. One major constraint, especially in countries with extensive small holder production systems, is the lack of digitalised, automatically collected data. In addition, many SyS oriented initiatives are only planned for a limited period of time and are rarely followed up on. For countries with limited resources, data collection through mobile applications is promising, but challenging. There are only a few approaches that have embedded SyS in a larger monitoring system. These are mainly limited to countries where there are adequate resources, expertise and a good veterinary infrastructure, with animal health surveillance systems and funding.
To develop a sustainable system, data for SyS must be available in a good quality and accessible. Funding for development and strategies to ensure long-term use should be placed before planning and designing a new animal health SyS. Efforts and focus should be put on identifying realistic goals for SyS and assessing the accessibility of available data streams and sources.
(*) Syndromic surveillance (SyS) is defined as a real-time (or near real-time) collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of health-and production related data (i.e., livestock mortality data, necropsy data, livestock performance data etc.) to enable the early identification of potential human or veterinary public-health threats which require effective public- or veterinary health action. The aim of syndromic surveillance is to detect disease outbreaks earlier than it would be possible with systems based on laboratory diagnostic methods.
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