How GISRS tracked influenza pandemic over 70 years. 10 pts

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In a bid to protect people against seasonal and pandemic influenza, Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System, or GISRS were created in March 1952. And this year, the institute celebrates its 70th anniverssary. 

1918: In the years leading up to GISRS’s founding, memories of the devastating impact of the great influenza pandemic in 1918, which led to as many as 50 million deaths, were still vividly present.

1952: In 1952, only 25 countries had WHO-designated Influenza Centres in place and were able to report laboratory and epidemiological data to WHO, with other observer laboratories co-operating in various regions.

1968: Laboratory investigations after influenza pandemics in 1957 and 1968 found that the novel pandemic viruses acquired 2 or 3 gene segments from an avian influenza virus and the remaining 5 or 6 segments from previously circulating human influenza A viruses. This finding shed light on the importance of influenza viruses circulating in animal reservoirs, particularly in aquatic fowl and pigs

1976: During the 1960s and 1970s, the quality of influenza vaccines improved and their use increased predominantly in industrialized countries. WHO, based on the work by GISRS, began recommending viruses for inclusion in annual seasonal vaccines in 1973.

1980-90: New laboratory methods continued to be developed in the 1980s and 1990s. Molecular biology opened unforeseen opportunities to intensify the analysis and characterization of influenza viruses.

2005: In late 2003 and in 2004, avian influenza A(H5N1) viruses caused human cases in connection with large outbreaks in poultry in several countries in Asia.

2010: Between 2009 and 2010, a new A(H1N1) influenza virus emerged and led to a pandemic causing an estimated 100,000 to 400,000 deaths, with children and young adults most affected.

To improve pandemic influenza preparedness and response by improving and strengthening GISRS, an exemplary international instrument was unanimously adopted in 2011: the Pandemic influenza preparedness framework (PIP Framework). The PIP Framework supports the sharing of influenza viruses and the equitable and timely access to vaccines and other benefits.

Testing for antiviral resistance also became a routine task in GISRS laboratories, as it became clear that viruses had become resistant to some anti-influenza medications.

2020: As of January 2022, GISRS has grown to include 148 National Influenza Centres, seven WHO Collaborating Centres, four Essential Regulatory Laboratories, and 13 H5 Reference Laboratories. Between 2014 and 2019, GISRS tested an average of 3.4 million specimens every year. This surged to 6.7 million tests annually for influenza and 44.2 million tests for SARS-CoV-2 in 2020 and 2021. GISRS shares around 20 000 influenza virus samples every year to WHO Collaborating Centres, updates the weekly influenza situation based on laboratory and disease surveillance in the WHO FluNet and FluID systems directly or via regional platforms, and distributes timely risk assessments and alerts to countries.

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