Overview: Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response


Epidemic and pandemic-prone diseases threaten public health security. These include diseases such as cholera, meningitis, avian influenza, and viral haemorrhagic fevers for which the region reports considerably high incidence and mortality rates. They can be responsible for high levels of morbidity and mortality and have a devastating impact on the economies of the Region.

These diseases can occur across borders and affect the world as a whole. Countries in the Region have reported epidemics of cholera, Ebola and Marburg viruses, influenza, yellow fever, meningococcal meningitis and Lassa fever.

In 1998, the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response Strategy was set up to address the burden of communicable diseases and improve the availability and use of data in detecting and responding to public health events.


Challenges Member States face include:

  • Strengthening capacity and systems to efficiently respond to epidemic prone diseases and other public health emergencies of national and international concern
  • Tackling socio-economic, demographic, environmental and ecological factors which facilitate the occurrence and spread of these diseases
  • Overcoming structural impediments for rapid response to epidemic prone diseases.


Three major interventions have been useful for improving preparedness and response to epidemic and pandemic diseases:

  • Enhancement of surveillance systems for timely reporting of notifiable diseases
  • Early detection of emerging dangerous pathogens
  • Enhanced systems for detection and response to pandemic influenza.

Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response Programme

The Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response Programme supports Member States of the African Region to establish and implement functional integrated early warning and epidemic preparedness and response systems that will result in the improved prediction, early detection and rapid and effective response to epidemic- and pandemic-prone diseases that will be the foundation of an integrated regional alert and response system for epidemics and other public health emergencies