Since 1952, the World Health Organization (WHO) has led a global effort to monitor the evolution of influenza viruses and to track and assess how the virus is affecting people across the world in real time. A key component of those efforts is the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), which provides recommendations concerning laboratory diagnostics, vaccines, antiviral susceptibility, and risk assessment.
The GISRS monitors influenza to identify transmission patterns and inform national and international influenza preparedness policy. It also releases surveillance data on its FluNet webpage. As a part of FluNet, users can access reports that document influenza virus detection by country or region as well as review weekly updates regarding the different types of influenza circulating in each country.
Perhaps one most important functions of the GISRS is to help inform the composition of each year’s seasonal influenza vaccine. Using data related to influenza outbreaks in other regions of the world, governments and vaccine manufacturers, in collaboration with the WHO, can make informed decisions about the strains important to include in the influenza vaccine supply for their own countries or regions. Because influenza viruses, like other potential pathogens, can easily travel from one part of the world to another, global surveillance programs, like the GISRS, are crucial to keeping local and global populations healthy.