Mystery disease outbreak in ‘Anycountry’

The Epidemic Preparedness Team‘s pre-deployment training

SEEG experts and cooperation partners preparing for missions

Have you already heard of the mysterious disease outbreak in distant ‘Anycountry’, where – through the onset of heavy rainfall – mainly the marginalized nomad population in the south of the country is affected? No? For the 30 experts who participated in the pre-deployment training of the Epidemic Preparedness Team (SEEG) from 7th – 9th August, the outbreak was unexpected, too.

The BMZ commissioned GIZ to set up the SEEG initiative together with the cooperation partners Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM). The aim is to support partner countries in preparing for and responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases. For this purpose, SEEG has established a pool of approx. 80 experts who bring different types of expertise to the team, including water, sanitation and hygiene, logistics, communication, anthropology and climate.

The training focused on raising experts’ awareness of the valuable contributions from different disciplines to building partner countries’ epidemic preparedness and response. One of the lessons learned from past disease outbreaks is that multidisciplinarity is key for effective epidemic prevention, detection and control. This is why SEEG has pursued a multidisciplinary approach from the start, bringing together a wide range of expertise within one response team.

Conducting a situation analysis to identify the cause of the outbreak

The multidisciplinary team discovered the cause of the outbreak first

The training in August was organized around a simulation exercise, based on a fictitious disease outbreak in ‘Anycountry’. The participants were grouped into multidisciplinary teams and each team had to conduct a situation analysis. The different perspectives of the team members led to multifaceted approaches towards identifying the disease and understanding its related challenges.

The training organisers provided hints and background information through interviews with fictional characters played by actors, fictitious newspaper articles and pieces of information through other communication channels. The winning team - an epidemiologist, an anthropologist, a climate specialist, a public health expert and a virologist - soon discovered which pathogen caused the outbreak. As prize SEEG presented them with four kilograms of delicacies from Bonn, which they shared generously with the other teams. What a team spirit!

Multidisciplinarity: The key to a successful response to epidemics

On the third day of the training, the participants discussed possible SEEG interventions in Anycountry, in response to the fictitious outbreak and to prevent future outbreaks. They came up with a wide range of suggestions, from vector control and improved risk communication to strengthening laboratory capacities. All of them underlined the importance of implementing these measures with colleagues who brought other types of expertise to the task.

At the end of the event, Annette Bremer, leader of the GIZ SEEG team, was pleased: “This is exactly what we hoped for: Through their teamwork on the outbreak in Anycountry, the participants got a first-hand impression of how useful different types of professional expertise can be when it comes to understanding the complexity of an epidemic. This is what the SEEG approach is all about!”

Read more about the SEEG initiative:

Project fact sheet: Tackling Epidemics

Early detection halts outbreaks in Togo and Benin 

Epidemic preparedness: Ready ToGo

It takes more than one discipline to tackle epidemics

Larissa Duddeck
September 2017

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