Division of Public Health, Surveillance and Response
The Public Health Surveillance and Response Division was established incorporating GERMS-SA, Outbreak Response and Travel Health
The Division facilitates communication and data sharing between the national and provincial health departments and the NICD and provide epidemiological input to other NICD units through collaborative projects and support of surveillance and epidemiological activities and outbreak responses.
- GERMS-SA: GERMS-SA is a laboratory-based surveillance programme for fungal and bacterial causes of pneumonia, meningitis and diarrhoeal diseases. Approximately 200 laboratories (public and private) report cases and send isolates to the NICD according to specific GERMS case definitions. At 25 sentinel sites across the country, surveillance officers collect clinical information from patients relating to these particular pathogens. The objectives of the programme are to:
- Estimate the burden of infectious diseases under surveillance
- Monitor antimicrobial susceptibility trends
- Monitor the impact of the HIV/AIDS Comprehensive Care, Management and Treatment Programme in SA on HIV-associated opportunistic infections
- Evaluate the effects of vaccines included in the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI)
- Monitor hospital-acquired infections
Individual studies currently being undertaken include a case-control study to measure the effectiveness of a conjugate vaccine against the invasive pneumococcal disease. The work carried out by the GERMS team has significantly contributed to the development of clinical guidelines for pneumonia, meningococcal disease, cholera, cryptococcosis, typhoid fever, etc., and the introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and Hib booster dose into the EPI. For more information and reports, access the GERMS-SA website.
- Outbreak Response: The Outbreak Response Team is tasked with providing technical support for all aspects of communicable disease outbreak investigation and control in the nine provinces of South Africa, with particular emphasis on optimising the role of laboratory services during these events. The team aims to be a source of intelligence during outbreaks, and through working in close collaboration with the provincial and national Departments of Health, ensures a comprehensive outbreak response, as well as the development of systems for early detection and improved reporting. Through close partnerships with the NHLS diagnostic laboratories and reference units of the NICD, the team aims to facilitate appropriate laboratory diagnostic services during outbreaks and specialised diagnostics as required.
The Outbreak Response Team plays a crucial role in communications with stakeholders such as the Department of Health, medical practitioners, media and the general public. We publish a monthly Communicable Diseases Communiqué for providing up-to-date information on communicable disease events in South Africa, as well as regularly produce various healthcare worker guidelines, handbooks, fact-sheets, etc. for outbreak-prone communicable diseases of high public health importance. The Team also plays a central role in capacity development by providing in-service training to SA-FELTP residents, public health specialist registrars and secondees from international partner organisations, and routinely provides Epidemic Preparedness and Response Training to the staff of the Department of Health.
- Travel Health: Travel Health was established in 2008 with the aim of being a centre for travel health-related activities and consulting on international health matters. This working group provides pre- and post-travel health advice and consultations for travel health practitioners, as well as for staff of the NHLS and NICD for work-related field activities. Regular expert consultations are provided, both locally and internationally to international focal points, institutes and health practitioners for South African travellers presenting with infectious diseases after travelling within southern Africa and further abroad. These include infections in travellers such as trypanosomiasis, severe malaria and rickettsial disease (tick bite fever). Consultation is also provided for the elimination of malaria in South Africa and other countries within southern Africa.