Public Health England (PHE) has published a report of the UK National Focal Point (NFP) activity relating to the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005, marking 10 years since the revised regulations came into force in 2007. Under IHR (2005), countries agree to build their capacities to detect, assess, and report public health events, and are required to designate an IHR NFP to be accessible at all times for communications with the World Health Organization (WHO) IHR Regional Contact Point. The NFP has a duty to both assess any events (infectious, chemical, radiation or biological) that may potentially constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and to notify them to the WHO. PHE hosts the IHR NFP on behalf of all of UK territory.
The report covers UK IHR NFP activity between 2012 and 2016, during which period WHO declared three PHEICs - the international spread of wild poliovirus, Ebola virus disease in west Africa and Zika virus disease (ZVD). During this period, the UK NFP reported 52 events to WHO. Of these, 50 (96%) were related to infectious diseases, two were chemical-related events, and there were no reported radiological events. A third of these events related to international outbreaks occurring in UK overseas territories (e.g. locally-acquired ZVD cases, chikungunya cases, etc.).
Not all communications of the UK IHR NFP are with the WHO. An analysis of the email communications since 2007, presented in the report, indicated a five-fold increase in email traffic between 2008 and 2016, most of which was direct communication with other countries as part of contact tracing, the report notes. The report concludes that this suggests the implementation of IHR (2005) is successfully achieving its aim to improve global communication about public health events.
For further information, see the UK National Focal Point webpage.
Text adapted from Health Protection Report, 5 January 2018