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Raleigh to Bamako: CSTE Influenza Surveillance International Consultancy

Posted By Lauren Thie, Friday, January 22, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, January 12, 2016

CSTE provides international consultancies for its members to support CDC programs. You may have a colleague who went to West Africa to help support Ebola efforts through CSTE. When I joined CSTE in 2011 as a new North Carolina health department employee, I had recently returned home from some international work. I let CSTE know I would be interested in international consultancy, and what my skills were. Through the CSTE international consultancy program, I was able to assist in an influenza epidemiological surveillance review in Bamako, Mali in September 2015.

I received training for the influenza surveillance review in advance of my departure. CSTE colleagues experienced in surveillance reviews offered their expertise and documents from their previous reviews in West Africa. CDC-CSTE calls were held to offer me training for the consultancy. CDC shared background documents on Mali’s influenza work. North Carolina public health has a strong history of international consultancy and influenza work, and colleagues shared their wealth of experience. I left for Bamako in early September feeling prepared.

Mali is located in West Africa, sharing borders with 7 different countries. It is south of Algeria, west of Niger, north of Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire, and east of Mauritania and Senegal. Mali is twice the size of Texas and is home to 15 million people. Bamako is the capital city, located in western Mali. Bamako’s population is two million and is the sixth fastest growing city in the world.

The CDC Influenza program and the Center for Vaccine Development Mali planned the surveillance review itinerary and most of the logistics. During my week in Bamako, I used the CDC surveillance tool to document Mali’s influenza surveillance program in laboratory, Influenza-Like Illness (ILI), and Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) surveillance sites, and nationwide epidemiological surveillance. I recorded what Mali’s influenza epidemiologists, clinicians, and laboratory scientists shared with me about their budding program. With the help of CDC colleagues in Atlanta and Accra, I reported to CDC on the overall system, SARI, ILI, laboratory, data, a SARI sentinel site visit (Gabriel Toure Hospital Pediatric Department, Bamako), and an ILI site visit (Commune I, Bamako).

My international consultancy work with CSTE and CDC on influenza surveillance was inspiring. Professionally, I was impressed by my public health colleagues in Bamako. I have done several public health projects in lower resource settings and this was by far the most impressive I have seen. With time, I believe the Mali influenza program will be an example in West Africa. I am grateful to CSTE, CDC, and the Center for Vaccine Development Mali for an outstanding epidemiology experience during my September 2015 visit.

Touring the Center for Vaccine Development Mali’s (CVD-Mali) laboratory, which performs influenza testing. Left to right: Dr. Boubou Tamboura (CVD-Mali laboratory director, Bamako, Mali), Dr. Talla Nzussouo (CDC epidemiology and laboratory regional advisor based in Accra, Ghana), me (Lauren Thie, NC Division of Public Health, CSTE member), Thelma Williams (CDC project officer, based in Atlanta, USA).

Lauren Thie, MSPH is an Environmental Program Consultant in Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology at the North Carolina Division of Public Health. For more information on international consultancies, please contact CSTE. CSTE is seeking epidemiologists for rapid Ebola deployment in West Africa, including Portuguese and French speakers.

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