METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Available evidence was evaluated using a step-wise process that included systematic literature reviews, policymaker and stakeholder interviews, a study to assess dengue contingency planning and outbreak management in 10 countries, and a retrospective logistic regression analysis to identify alarm signals for an outbreak warning system using datasets from five dengue endemic countries. Best practices for managing a dengue outbreak are provided for key elements of a dengue contingency plan including timely contingency planning, the importance of a detailed, context-specific dengue contingency plan that clearly distinguishes between routine and outbreak interventions, surveillance systems for outbreak preparedness, outbreak definitions, alert algorithms, managerial capacity, vector control capacity, and clinical management of large caseloads. Additionally, a computer-assisted early warning system, which enables countries to identify and respond to context-specific variables that predict forthcoming dengue outbreaks, has been developed.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Most countries do not have comprehensive, detailed contingency plans for dengue outbreaks. Countries tend to rely on intensified vector control as their outbreak response, with minimal focus on integrated management of clinical care, epidemiological, laboratory and vector surveillance, and risk communication. The Technical Handbook for Surveillance, Dengue Outbreak Prediction/ Detection and Outbreak Response seeks to provide countries with evidence-based best practices to justify the declaration of an outbreak and the mobilization of the resources required to implement an effective dengue contingency plan.
METHODS: We report on the development of the EWARS tool, based on users' recommendations into a convenient, user-friendly and reliable software aided by a user's workbook and its field testing in 30 health districts in Brazil, Malaysia and Mexico.
FINDINGS: 34 Health officers from the 30 study districts who had used the original EWARS for 7 to 10 months responded to a questionnaire with mainly open-ended questions. Qualitative content analysis showed that participants were generally satisfied with the tool but preferred open-access vs. commercial software. EWARS users also stated that the geographical unit should be the district, while access to meteorological information should be improved. These recommendations were incorporated into the second-generation EWARS-R, using the free R software, combined with recent surveillance data and resulted in higher sensitivities and positive predictive values of alarm signals compared to the first-generation EWARS. Currently the use of satellite data for meteorological information is being tested and a dashboard is being developed to increase user-friendliness of the tool. The inclusion of other Aedes borne viral diseases is under discussion.
CONCLUSION: EWARS is a pragmatic and useful tool for detecting imminent dengue outbreaks to trigger early response activities.
METHOD: A research-to-policy forum was convened by TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, with researchers and representatives from ministries of health, in order to review research findings and discuss their implications for policy and research.
RESULTS: The participants reviewed findings of research supported by TDR and others. Surveillance and early outbreak warning. Systematic reviews and country studies identify the critical characteristics that an alert system should have to document trends reliably and trigger timely responses (i.e., early enough to prevent the epidemic spread of the virus) to dengue outbreaks. A range of variables that, according to the literature, either indicate risk of forthcoming dengue transmission or predict dengue outbreaks were tested and some of them could be successfully applied in an Early Warning and Response System (EWARS). Entomological surveillance and vector management. A summary of the published literature shows that controlling Aedes vectors requires complex interventions and points to the need for more rigorous, standardised study designs, with disease reduction as the primary outcome to be measured. House screening and targeted vector interventions are promising vector management approaches. Sampling vector populations, both for surveillance purposes and evaluation of control activities, is usually conducted in an unsystematic way, limiting the potentials of entomological surveillance for outbreak prediction. Combining outbreak alert and improved approaches of vector management will help to overcome the present uncertainties about major risk groups or areas where outbreak response should be initiated and where resources for vector management should be allocated during the interepidemic period.
CONCLUSIONS: The Forum concluded that the evidence collected can inform policy decisions, but also that important research gaps have yet to be filled.
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