Jan 10, 2013, 9:10 AM
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in collaboration with MRC-The Gambia on Wednesday organized a day -long training forum on rotavirus and its surveillance in The Gambia.
The training session was in anticipation of the upcoming Rotavirus Surveillance for The Gambia scheduled to take place in October. The forum attracted participants from the health sector, and was held at the Baobab Hotel in Bijilo.
In his welcome remarks, Dr Makie Taal, Director of National Public Health Laboratories, said rotavirus is the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in infants and young children worldwide.
He noted that estimates have shown that 20-70 percent of all hospital admission, and 20 percent of death from diarrhea is attributable to rotavirus in children under age five.
“It’s estimated that, worldwide, 527,000 children aged less than five years die from rotavirus diarrhea each year, with more than 85 percent of these deaths occurring in low-income countries of Africa and Asia.”
Dr Thomas Sukwa, the World Health Organisation country representative in The Gambia, said globally the burden of rotavirus disease is huge, in both developed and developing countries.
He added that rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea cases worldwide.
According to the WHO country representative, an estimated 527,000 children die each year from rotavirus infection, and over two million are hospitalized.
Regardless of where they live, nearly every child is infected with rotavirus at least once before the age of five, with the first infection usually occurring before age two.
He asserted that preventions, such as improved hygiene and water purification, can reduce the burden of other causes of diarrhea, but less effective in preventing rotavirus diarrhea. Hence vaccines represent the best hope for preventing the mortality from the most severe episodes of rotavirus infection, particularly in impoverished regions where access to medical care is limited.
According to him, the data so far gathered are critical for clarifying the burden of the disease, and understanding the diversity of strains in order to guide decision-making on vaccine introduction.
“Therefore this training is a very important step in the right direction, in trying to establish the rotavirus disease burden in the country to guide introduction of rotavirus vaccine in the EPI system.”
Dr Omar Sey deputy permanent secretary technical at the ministry of Health and Social Welfare, said the most effective public health strategy to prevent rotavirus infection and reduce disease burden is through vaccination.
He said that WHO strongly recommended inclusion of rotavirus vaccines into national immunization programmes in regions where vaccine efficacy data suggest a significant public health impact.