Bangladesh has used lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic to build emergency preparedness capacities by training rapid response teams (RRT) that can be deployed during any public health event due to influenza or any other respiratory pathogen.
In total, more than 200 RRT members have been trained, including epidemiologists, clinicians, laboratory technicians, communication officers, anthropologists, logisticians, psychosocial support experts, data managers, and environmental experts among others. For more than two years, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a live exercise in rapid response for these trainees. The RRT trainings gave participants a chance to share their experiences and review lessons learnt so that they might be better prepared to tackle future outbreaks of influenza or other respiratory pathogens with epidemic or pandemic potential.
The trainings were developed and delivered by a group of epidemiologists and laboratory scientists from the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) with direct field experiences in managing COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory pathogens. Key topics in the training package that were built on lessons learnt during the pandemic included:
- how to leverage the existing influenza surveillance system to integrate monitoring of other respiratory pathogens;
- how to establish an early warning and alert system and why it’s important;
- how to use risk communications and community mobilization in outbreak response;
- how to plan, prepare and carry out outbreak investigations;
- how to ensure biosafety and why it’s important; and
- likely challenges and how to overcome them.
During 2022, supported by the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Partnership Contribution, twelve groups of rapid response personnel successfully completed the training and are ready for deployment during the next public health event due to influenza or any other respiratory pathogen.