Influenza virus is an ever-changing virus circulating among humans and animals. The wide range of hosts and frequent genetic changes has created a significant knowledge gap around prevention and reduction of the burden of seasonal, zoonotic and pandemic influenza by health authorities. In response, the World Health Organization (WHO) has adopted several Resolutions and has launched multiple initiatives urging its Member States to strengthen their influenza programs and prepare for a possible influenza pandemic.
Influenza has long been considered a “vaccine-preventable” disease by WHO. Numerous studies have shown that utilization of vaccines vary greatly among the countries of the world and remains at low levels in general and among influenza risk groups in particular. In addition, in many countries of the Middle–East, Eurasia ‘N Africa (ME’NA) region influenza has not been among the public health priorities due to several reasons: sustained routine influenza surveillance networks are at early stages of establishment; data on health and economic burden of influenza are limited and not well communicated to decision makers and health care providers.
ME’NA -ISN is being established with the primary objective of addressing these problems, generating data and providing expertise for the policy makers and health care systems in order for each country in the Region to develop an effective influenza program to reduce the burden of influenza in the Region. Subsequently, ME’NA -ISN held series of meetings where the National Action Plans and their achievements have been discussed.
ME’NA-ISN participants held their first meeting during “The Fifth European Scientists Working on Influenza (ESWI) Influenza Conference” held during the period of 14-17 September 2014, in Riga, Latvia. During the meeting objectives of ME’NA-ISN (that were based upon the Global Action Plan for Influenza/GAP) were discussed and agreed upon. In addition, the group agreed on working on influenza mapping to understand current influenza situation in each member country in order to develop country-tailored action plans for improvement in the areas of need such as strengthening the surveillance and generating disease burden data and Influenza vaccine introduction as an ultimate goal.