efforts to coordinate and build on existing surveillance networks. GLEWS, described by Stéphane de La Rocque of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is a system for pooling information collected by FAO, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and WHO. GLEWS was devised to improve the tracking of significant diseases among animals in high-risk areas, and to provide data analysis and early warnings to the international community. In place for only a year as of the June 2008 workshop, GLEWS was also designed to ensure that data collection efforts are shared among institutions and agencies, rather than duplicated. The program’s primary functions are disease tracking, information sharing, verification of threats, disease analysis, and support for urgent response to outbreaks.
The GLEWS team has three working groups, each focused on a different aspect of the task: disease tracking, analysis and risk assessment, and response. The GLEWS team follows information available through a variety of channels to track rumors about diseases. They are currently monitoring highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), Rift Valley fever, and foot-and-mouth disease; they hope to expand their operations to cover additional zoonotic and other diseases, such as African Swine Fever, rinderpest, and rabies. The GLEWS team mines a variety of media (such as the ProMED global electronic reporting system for outbreaks, the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, and AI-watch) as well as country reports and other data collected by FAO, and information from the European Commission, OIE, and agencies of the United Nations (including WHO, which has representatives in nearly every country in the world). The event tracking system includes a record listing each initial report, follow-up, actions taken, requests for assistance, and changes in status of the event.
In collaboration with a variety of other centers with specific expertise, the GLEWS team analyzes the data collected in order to provide public health warnings in the form of long- and short-term forecasts. Based on this analysis, the GLEWS team puts out disease alerts, and also has the capacity to develop recommendations for coordinated responses to animal health emergencies and provide assistance to local authorities.
The basic premise of GLEWS is that the team will never leave an event open; that is, they will track every rumor until they can either establish that it is not a risk or identify a clear warning that needs to be addressed and made public. Among the challenges for the GLEWS program, de La Rocque explained, is that of confidentiality. It is not uncommon for government officials to be reluctant to release information about a potential disease outbreak for fear of trade disruption or other reasons, and OIE is similarly unable to disseminate information unless it has been officially sent by the chief veterinary officer of their member governments. To address this problem, GLEWS staff have established three levels of confidentiality to verify