Cross section of students during the debate on arboviral infections.
Zoonotic diseases, exposure to harmful microorganisms and their uncontrolled dissemination are major engines that ensure endemicity of ranges of infectious diseases and outbreaks in some cases. At Université des Montagnes (UdM, a debate was organized for students with the objective of getting attendees actively engaged in topics related to infectious diseases in general, antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic diseases, biosecurity, bio-safety and disease surveillance.
Upon completion of a similar debate in February 2017, the students got better understanding of government systems, policies and priorities in connection with management of epidemic prone diseases in Cameroon. For the June debate, three viral zoonotic conditions and related etiologies were used as support case-study documents. The debate attendees got better understanding of a few definitions related to infectious diseases (IDs), the relatedness with other microbial diseases, clinical manifestations, laboratory diagnosis as well as means of their transmission from one form of life to the other. They also realized that several life-threatening conditions are typically neglected because they go unnoticed in many parts of the world.
The students realized that they could play significant role in the management of epidemic prone diseases in Cameroon and that from one end to the other, many stakeholders were concerned (in a multidisciplinary approach that is imposed by globalization), in line with the objectives of the GHSA for core competency needs to International Health Regulation (IHR), the World Health Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS) and One Health (OH).
The objectives of the debate were;
- Get attendees engaged in the struggle against the health threats that are associated with viral life-threatening conditions and likely antimicrobial resistance development
- Highlight importance of multidisciplinary approaches in preventing and controlling outbreaks.
- Introduce aspects related to safe hand-washing in line with Biosafety and Biosecurity
- Understand constraints associated with accuracy in clinical and laboratory diagnosis
Students were organized in small groups to discuss the case-studies that were provided. Group discussions provided answers to the six questions that were include in the case studies.
Participant recognized the role of arthropods in disseminating infectious agents and the importance of avoiding conducive breeding grounds for these disease vectors which are the same and can breed in forests, urban and rural areas.
The debate closed with a movie on hand washing techniques, in connection with the knowledge that most infectious diseases are transmitted by human hands.
For sustainability purposes, it is important to integrate such educative items (like the debate) in the formal academic schemes in future so that many more can benefit.
It was also strongly suggested that field engagements should follow the debate to sensitize the local populations on infectious diseases and zoonotic diseas
Some of the key issues arising from the debate were.
- The need for capacity strengthening with special focus on the laboratory facilities and human resources, to be able to implement epidemiological surveillance and disease control, carry out accurate diagnosis (PCR, RT-PCR) and offer quality case management during outbreaks.
- The need to raise community awareness and to educate the public on measures that they can put in place to avoid mosquito bites and reduce mosquito breeding habitats (Ades mosquito transmit other viruses).
- The role of global travel in the emergence and re-emergence of diseases cannot go unnoticed. This is already heightening the risk of transmission of Zika virus to sub-Saharan African countries in Cape Verde and other regions (attention is particularly needed in the main entry points such as the airports and seaports that are the main gateways from the infected areas).
- The need for research on key issues; will be important to understand and evaluate the role of potential non-human primates in maintaining transmission and/or serving as ZIKV reservoirs. Possible co-infections with dengue steriotypes (DENV 1–4) and ZIKV virus other prevalent infections in the continent, such as malaria and HIV, Africa is increasingly opening up to the rest of the world due to h migration associated with tourism and business. The re-emergence and spread of arboviral infections could lead to devastating consequences on the human population, the health-care system and economic progress on the continent.