The flu family: Member States, WHO collaborating centres and WHO

The flu family: Member States, WHO collaborating centres and WHO

Representatives of the WHO collaborating centres for influenza at the Ninth National Influenza Centres meeting in Cambodia in 2015.

For 50 years, the family of WHO collaborating centres for influenza, the WHO Secretariat and Member States have worked together to reduce and manage risks associated with influenza. Their long-established partnership demonstrates many best practices that were shared and reinforced during the first regional forum of WHO collaborating centres in the Western Pacific.

Three of six WHO collaborating centres globally, are located in the Western Pacific Region: Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (Australia), Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Infectious Diseases (Japan).

These centres work with other institutions internationally through WHO's Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS). This laboratory network consists of national influenza centres, WHO collaborating centres and other reference laboratories. In the Western Pacific Region there are 21 national influenza centres across 15 countries. The GISRS monitors the evolution of influenza viruses and makes recommendations to enhance laboratory diagnostics, inform seasonal vaccine composition, antiviral susceptibility and risk assessment. The GISRS also serves as a global alert mechanism for the emergence of influenza viruses with pandemic potential. WHO collaborating centres are instrumental for informing risk assessments, including for avian influenza strains infecting humans such as H5N1 and H7N9.

In the Western Pacific Region, the WHO collaborating centres for influenza support regional training on laboratory techniques and on-site support to national influenza centres in other countries. They provide specialty reagents to laboratories that cannot be purchased commercially and also provide support with other pathogens, for example Middle East respiratory syndrome. Each year, through a bi-regional meeting with the South-East Asia Region, national influenza centres and WHO collaborating centres for influenza meet to discuss technical matters related to influenza.

Following the first forum, the flu centres were involved in burden of diseases studies in Cambodia and the Lao People's Democratic Republic, technical exploration of measures for determining pandemic severity of influenza and on-site support to countries in cell culture, virus isolation and antiviral testing.

In the coming years, these centres will be key contributors to Sustainable Development Goal target 3d on strengthening the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.

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