Juba, 2 October 2018 – To determine the extent of Rota virus infections among children and reduce child morbidity and mortality due to rotavirus infection, the Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) is establishing sentinel surveillance for rotavirus infection in Juba.
The rotavirus sentinel surveillance sites are critical to determine and to characterize circulating strains, and to monitor the trends of rotavirus infection in children under 5 years that will help the country to make evidence-based decision for Rota vaccine introduction in the country, and to evaluate the impact post introduction of the vaccines.
The objective of the current sentinel surveillance project was to assess the burden of severe rotavirus disease in South Sudan through active facility-based surveillance of diarrhea. As part of this, an assessment was conducted from 27 to 31 August 2018 to identify appropriate sites. The assessment team identified Al- Sabbah children’s hospital and Kator primary health care centre (PHCC), the two largest health care facilities in Juba as potential sentinel sites. The testing of stool samples using ELISA technique will be conducted at the national public health laboratory (NPHL).
“Despite, the low immunization coverage the country is committed to introduce Rota vaccine and remains a priority program highlighted within the comprehensive Multi-Year Plan for 2018 – 2022,” said Dr Atem Nathan the Director General of Primary Health Care at the Ministry of Health. He underscored the need for establishing disease burden of Rotavirus infection and circulating strains to make an evidence-based decision for Rota vaccine introduction.
In South Sudan, Rota virus infections are the most common cause of severe diarrheal diseases in young children and continue to be the leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Diahorrea in South Sudan’s children aged less than 5 years estimated to account for over 45% of the cases, and acute watery diarrheal constitute 13% of the total consultations.
Although, Rotavirus infection is one of the most important cause of diarrhea, nonetheless there is no separate surveillance system to establish the cause of diahorrea in South Sudan, says Mr Evans Liyosi, WHO a.i. South Sudan. The establishment of the Rota sentinel surveillance system will bridge these gaps and help the country to determine disease burden and strains circulating, build the capacity of laboratory, introduce new vaccine, assess the impact of the vaccine post introduction and lay the foundation for researchers to conduct vaccine impact study, Mr Liyosi highlighted.
As part of its efforts to address some of the key gaps, WHO through the African Rotavirus network delivered Rota test kits, to conduct ELISA test for Rota and to strengthen the internal and external quality control system of the NPHL, and reinforce the existing laboratory practice of written record keeping following the standard operating procedures.
The Ministry of Health is aiming to introduce Rota vaccine by 2020.