Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses

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The RITM-National Influenza Center (RITM-NIC) was established through the support of the DOH, WHO and US-CDC, to perform routine virologic surveillance of Influenza-like illness through a sentinel-based system, as well as provide support to the DOH for confirmation of potential outbreaks of Influenza. Its operations have been supported by two 5-year grants from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC) through which necessary infrastructure and technical capacity were established as part of pandemic preparedness.The NIC routinely performs virus isolation and molecular diagnosis of Influenza and other respiratory pathogens, and is part of the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) laboratory network.

The RITM-NIC, National Epidemiology Center (NEC), and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) initiated the establishment of the Influenza Surveillance Network in the Philippines in 2004. CDC-funded surveillance activities were conducted in selected regional and health centers in the country.

The objectives of the Influenza virologic surveillance system are:

  1. To detect as early as possible the emergence of new antigenic variants of influenza virus.
  2. To collect information on the circulating influenza virus strains.
  3. To provide influenza virus isolates to the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System.
  4. To monitor, analyze, and disseminate virologic surveillance information.
  5. To establish an effective and timely National Influenza Surveillance System with the National Epidemiology Center.
  6. To provide a framework for preparedness and response to emerging and re-emerging diseases/pathogens.

In 5 years, the NIC and NEC were successful in establishing ILI surveillance sites in at least one regional hospital and one health center across 12 regions. The regions covered by the surveillance include facilities in identified regional ‘hot spots’ , i.e. migratory pathways of local population of ducks and poultry, as well as tertiary level hospitals to initiate surveillance among hospital admitted patients. Following the outbreak of Pandemic Influenza A(H1N1) in 2009, five (5) Subnational Laboratories were established to facilitate real-time PCR testing and augment the capacity of the NIC.

A 2nd 5-year grant was provided by US-CDC in 2010 to work on sustainability of the NIC. On Year 3 and 4, the NIC downsized to maintain quality sentinel sites in 5 regions, and is currently exerting efforts to reactivate the 5 Subnational Laboratories to provide augmented capacity to support outbreaks and surveillance activities for Influenza and other emerging respiratory diseases, of the Department of Health.