ETHIOPIA – The National Influenza Laboratory of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) has been recognized as a World Health Organization (WHO) National Influenza Centre (NIC) and the Ethiopian laboratory has joined the WHO global influenza surveillance network, WHO said on its website.

Following an on-sight assessment by a team of WHO experts, the National Influenza Laboratory of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute is now recognized as a full member of the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS).

The team recommended Ethiopia to continue to contribute to regional and global influenza surveillance particularly enhancing its involvement in GISRS by increasing shipping of influenza positive specimens to a WHO collaborating Centre for candidate influenza vaccine selection four times a year, WHO reports.

The National Influenza Laboratory, which is a Biosafety Level 2 (BSL 2) facility, was established in 2008 with the primary purpose of serving as a virology lab for influenza and other respiratory viruses, and was exclusively designated as an influenza centre of EPHI in 2018.

World Health Organization (WHO)


The assessment mission also urged Ethiopia to continue regular reporting of influenza surveillance data to WHO and to maintain participation in the annual WHO GISRS external quality assurance programme.

WHO highlights that the on-site assessment was performed by a WHO team composed of the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System Lead, a technical specialist from the WHO Regional Office for Africa and a laboratory coordinator from the WHO Ethiopia Country Office.

The assessment mission evaluated the status of the National Influenza Laboratory of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute against the WHO NIC Terms of Reference using a standardized assessment tool.

The recommendations of the assessment will help Ethiopia to further strengthen the newly recognized National Influenza Centre by identifying, prioritizing and undertaking capacity building activities such as training.

The recommendations will also be useful for advocacy for funds, supplies and other resources to meet the needs of the National Influenza Centre in Ethiopia.

Furthermore, the Ethiopian National Influenza Laboratory is expected to contribute to the implementation of the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Framework and International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005.

WHO and the WHO Collaborating Centres for Influenza are also committed to continue to provide technical advice, assistance, influenza reagents and training to the National Influenza Centre.

The National Influenza Centre of Ethiopia joins 155 institutions in 125 countries recognized by the World Health Organization as part of the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System.

Founded in 1952, The Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System is a worldwide network created to protect people from the threat of influenza through effective collaboration and sharing of viruses, data and benefits based on Member States’ commitment to a global public health model.

The Ethiopian Public Health Institute’s Laboratory can now collect specimens in the country, perform primary virus isolation and preliminary antigenic characterization and ship newly isolated strains to regional WHO collaborating centres for antigenic and genetic analysis as part of the GISRS-member centres.

According to WHO, National influenza centres in the WHO African Region play a key role in influenza surveillance at the national level and participate in regional and global surveillance through the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System.

WHO outlines that the WHO Regional Office for Africa has been supporting the strengthening of influenza surveillance in several countries in the region, noting that Ethiopia has benefited from the support and has established sites in the country for epidemiological and virological surveillance of influenza.

In addition, the National Influenza Laboratory served as the first national laboratory to process COVID-19 specimens during the early days of the pandemic and the Lab continues to provide the service alongside other national and regional laboratories.

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