Inter-country collaboration between Iraq and Jordan allowed WHO and health authorities in Iraq to rapidly and successfully respond to an increase in cases of acute respiratory infections.
The last week of November 2018 witnessed an alarming rise in the incidence of acute respiratory infections in Sulaymaniyah Governorate in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. By 31 December, more than 35 suspected cases of influenza were admitted to Shaheed Hemin Hospital for Internal Medicine in the governorate, but very few cases had undergone virology lab investigation due to the unavailability of the laboratory medium required to transfer the nasal-throat specimen to the National Public Health Lab in Baghdad.
“The increase in reported cases of influenza was very concerning,” said Dr. Sabah Nasraddin Ahmed, Director General of Health in Sulaymaniyah governorate. “It required urgent investigation to isolate and identify the viral causing agent, but there was a severe shortage of the Viral Transport Medium needed to collect and transport the specimens. Only two samples were sent to the public health lab in Baghdad, one of which was H1N1 positive, sounding an alarm for a potential disease outbreak in the governorate,” he added.
Health authorities immediately requested support from WHO in Iraq to procure the Viral Transport Medium from accredited and accessible suppliers in Jordan.
“Despite the holiday season, WHO focal points in Iraq and Jordan coordinated immediately to facilitate the inter-country shipment and deliver the required supplies from Jordan to Iraq,” said Dr. Adham Ismail, WHO Representative in Iraq. “Two days of intensive collaboration between WHO teams in Iraq and Jordan successfully ended with a ready-to-ship consignment of Viral Transport Medium delivered to Shaheed Hemin Hospital ward & Central Lab in Sulaymaniyah, and also distributed to other health directorates in all Iraqi governorates as preparedness measures.”
“This story is just one example of how joint action, collaborative spirit, and dedication of staff can result in successful inter-country cooperation, highlighting that health security knows no borders, and that a health threat in one country requires immediate support and commitment from neighboring countries and the region,” said Dr. Maria Cristina Profili, WHO Representative in Jordan.
UNAMI | PUKmedia