The Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence, recently conducted a training workshop in epidemiology and surveillance plan development for animal health personnel in Pakistan. The training – which was held during August 8-19, 2016, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – was led by Heather Simmons, DVM, MSVPH, IIAD program manager and theme leader for education and outreach systems, and Sarah Caffey, MPH, IIAD program coordinator. The two trained 13 veterinarians from different provincial and federal veterinary service in Pakistan.
This workshop was organized to fulfill Pakistan’s need to formally train epidemiologists, field veterinarians, academicians and diagnostic laboratory personnel in animal disease surveillance and to introduce trainees to all of the concepts and tools necessary to build surveillance plans for animal health and diseases and analyze epidemiological data. Currently, the country’s surveillance plans for a number of zoonotic and high-consequence animal diseases are either incomplete or non-existent – yet are crucial for the control and/or eradication of the disease.
“The workshop really focused on manipulation and analysis of epidemiological data – an area that was highlighted as a targeted need by Pakistan,” said Simmons. “Through in-depth exercises with surveillance data, we demonstrated how personnel in Pakistan could analyze any data that was coming in from the field at the district, province, or national level”
To ensure the program was customized to meet all of the country’s needs, Simmons and Caffey closely collaborated with Dr. M. Afzal, DVM PhD, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation’s foot and mouth disease management specialist and project coordinator for progressive control of pestes des petit ruminants in Pakistan. Based on the “train the trainer” concept, the workshop provided participants with student and instructor materials – allowing them to give the same instruction to other personnel upon their return to Pakistan.
Under the guidance of the experienced animal health and epidemiology instructors, participants received 80 hours of instruction on specific topics in animal disease surveillance including: surveillance standards and guidelines, morbidity measures and basic statistics in epidemiology, sampling methods, and analyzing surveillance data. In addition, participants learned about diagnostics, sample collection and clinical signs within the framework of the World Organization for Animal Health guidelines and standards.
In order to demonstrate their understanding of each module and provide real-world application, trainees were split into three groups that were each responsible for creating a surveillance plan for foot and mouth disease according to specific scenarios that were presented throughout the workshop. On the last day, each group presented their plans and answered questions regarding their rationale for the decisions and resources that went into each aspect of their surveillance plans.
The trainees are currently completing a follow-on project to further demonstrate the skills and knowledge learned during the workshop.