Word of the Chairperson

Influenza-associated acute lower respiratory infection is the leading cause of mortality worldwide, responsible for at least 28 000 to 111 500 deaths in children less than 5 years old. If incidence and mortality vary from countries and from year to year, It is estimates that more than 90% of deaths due to influenza in young children occur in developing countries . Many of these deaths could be avoided through vaccination. Despite its impact on childhood morbidity and mortality, the epidemiology and pathogenesis of influenza-associated infections, particularly in Africa, remains understudied. The burden of disease may consequently be underestimated. Historically, data regarding the epidemiology of influenza in the African region was scarce. Recently, many African countries have implemented surveillance systems and are now contributing increasingly to global descriptions of influenza circulation. Nevertheless, more efforts are needed to better estimate burden of influenza in this region. Moreover, some important questions to address in the future will be on (1) how to sustain efficiently the influenza surveillance in countries with middle or low incomes, (2) how to translate results of surveillance and research into public health actions aiming at reducing morbidity and mortality dur to influenza. 

In Madagascar, the first description of an outbreak of Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) was made in 1890 in the city of Toamasina located East of Madagascar, where all boats and sailing ships anchored. From 1890 to 1957, eleven outbreaks have been notified. In 2002, an outbreak due to A/H3N2 took place in the southern part of the highlands and killed more than 700 individuals. The historical presence of the Institute Pasteur of Madagascar since 1898 and its committed work on infectious diseases and public health lead to nomination of the virology unit as WHO National Influenza Center in 1978. Thus, influenza surveillance in Madagascar is a long-standing activity, and from 2007, Madagascar has made substantial progress in implementing national influenza surveillance. In addition, they have developed research programs aiming at describing viral etiologies of ILI and SARI, understanding seasonality of influenza circulation and estimating burden of influenza-associated SARI.

Madagascar is honored to host the 6th annual meeting of African Network for Influenza Surveillance and Epidemiology (ANISE). We have no doubt that this meeting will allow all “flu-fighters” from African to exchange their experiences and strengthen this wonderful network.

Beside this meeting, we hope that you will have the opportunity to take some times to visit this astonishing country – “the land of lemurs and chameleons”. With its incredible biodiversity, Madagascar will make your journey unforgettable.

We are eager seeing you soon in Madagascar !!! 

Dr Jean-Michel HERAUD, Chairperson, PhD, HDR