On Tuesday the 21st of November, the PDPC organised a dynamic and interactive scenario-based workshop on the intersection of climate change and vector-borne diseases at the European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health (ECTMIH) in Utrecht.
Kicking off the workshop, Anja Schreijer, the Medical Director of the PDPC, provided a comprehensive introduction to the Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Center. Next, Reina Sikkema, virologist, veterinarian, and assistant professor at the department of Viroscience of Erasmus MC, introduced the participants to the scenario. The scenario, a combination of a flooding event and an outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis in the Netherlands, presented a realistic and challenging context.
Participants were divided into groups, each under the guidance of a facilitator, where they actively collaborated to analyse the presented scenario. Together, they engaged in discussions to decide what actions are needed to prevent further spread and manage the concurrent floods. The teams began with the analysing the potential risks and consequences arising from the scenario, categorizing them in a risk assessment matrix. Subsequently, the groups discussed the measures to counteract the outbreak, where they carefully had to allocate a limited budget to address the main risks they identified previously. In the final phase, the groups identified key stakeholders crucial for handling the crisis, placing them in a stakeholder matrix according to their power and interest. In the final 15 minutes of the session, every group participated in a plenary reflection of their decisions, moderated by Anja Schreijer.
The workshop highlighted not just the close connection between climate change and zoonotic infections, showcasing how hurricanes can trigger flooding and the contamination of floodwaters with pathogens and the subsequent rise in mosquito populations pose a dual threat, exposing populations to diseases and setting the stage for cascading effects, including outbreaks of waterborne or vector-borne infectious diseases. Moreover, the workshop stressed the significance of an interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approach in mitigating risks. It shed light on the complexity inherent in dealing with different disasters, requiring a careful consideration of all interests involved.