AITHM James Cook University


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03 November 2021

Disease epidemics from viruses spread by mosquitoes are happening more often across the Pacific region with a growing number of outbreaks being reported in the past 10 years, and sustaining the progress in controlling malaria remains a significant challenge.

In response, a collaboration agreement has been signed between the James Cook University (JCU) and the Pacific Community (SPC) to support vector surveillance efforts to reduce mosquito-borne diseases across the Pacific region and improve the wellbeing of Pacific Island people.

JCU leads the Pacific Mosquito Surveillance Strengthening for Impact (PacMOSSI) project, funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) to support the management of vector borne disease outbreaks in the region.

Professor Tom Burkot of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) at James Cook University and leader of the PacMOSSI project, said between January 2012 and May 2021, the Pacific region has had 69 dengue outbreaks, 12 Zika virus outbreaks and 15 Chikungunya outbreaks reported.  

Professor Burkot said the consortium is a partnership between Pacific Island countries, 12 international institutions, and the World Health Organization as a directing partner,  with an objective to support effective proactive vector surveillance by participating countries.

He said as a direct consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, his team had developed a more comprehensive training program which once ready, could be accessed online.

“The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a pivot from traditional face-to-face training to an interactive online training platform,” Professor Burkot said.

“A consequence of this shift in training platforms is that PacMOSSI is building a more sustainable and cost-effective training platform that will be available to a wider community of vector control officers and supporting partners including managers and technical officers based at national and regional levels.”

Dr Salanieta Saketa, SPC’s Senior Epidemiologist said SPC will continue to provide technical support and guidance, and capacity development in entomology and mosquito surveys as part of the project on Strengthening the Services of the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (PPHSN).

“We are currently developing entomology modules in collaboration with the PacMOSSI consortium, and we will be providing trainings to all Pacific Island Countries and Territories over the next two years.  "While COVID-19 pandemic is the imminent public health threat impacting all PICTs, we welcome the funding support from DFAT, AFD, and other partners as mosquito borne diseases remains a huge health and socioeconomic threat in the region,” Dr Saketa said.

The consortium recently launched a manual on surveillance and control of aedes mosquito vectors that has been well received and will serve as a reference material for this online training platform, and the next stage is to develop eight online interactive Vector Surveillance Capacity Modules.

PacMOSSI is focused on training on vector surveillance, capacity development, country surveillance and response plans, implementation research and ensuring Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) are sufficiently equipped and resourced.

 Follow PacMOSSI on Twitter.

Photo courtesy John Rae

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