Since first being recorded in late 2019 in China, the Covid-19 coronavirus has spread around the world and been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The figures on April 27, 2020 showed that nearly 3 million cases have been confirmed, among those 200,000 deaths. As a result, the virus is sending billions of people into lockdown as health services struggle to cope.
In Viet Nam, the Government has soon come up with effective measures to prevent and control the spread of the virus. To take the fight to coronavirus, Vietnam instituted rigorous quarantine policies and carried out complete tracing of all people who came in contact with the virus. Some remarkable measures had been taken in early February including: putting an entire town of 10,000 near Hanoi under quarantine for three weeks and proposing to close schools in all 63 provinces as per an emergency dispatch by the Ministry of Education and Training. At that time, there were only 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the entire country.
Lying within the scope of the Biorisk Management Mentoring and Training Program in 2020 (BRM 2020), Vietnam One Health University Network (VOHUN) in collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), and U.S. Department of Defense Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP), hosted the second year monthly series on One Health Biorisk Management case-based learning starting on April 28, 2020, Hanoi Time. The program series aiming at developing a VOHUN Biorisk Management virtual community of practice that provides continuous low dose, high-frequency education targeting Vietnamese One Health students and deliver case-based education related to One Health and Biorisk Management. The April engagement session utilizing the Zoom video conferencing platform brought together 160 participants working in both human health and animal health sectors from 14 countries across Asia, Africa and America continents to review epidemiological cases on Covid-19 pandemic from a biorisk management perspective.
Delivering the opening remarks of the session, Mr. Christian Cando, the Vietnam country lead for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency Biological Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA/BTRP), welcomed all participants and explained the mission and the outcome of the first remote engagement for 2020 with special focus on enhancing country ownership One Health approach to fight the pandemic threats.
The moderator for this month’s session was Dr. Carrie Mc. Neil from Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) with technical supports from SNL team and VOHUN. Starting the session, a case study presentation from VOHUN student teams, comprised of both veterinary and medical/public health students from School of Medicine and Pharmacy, Viet Nam National University (VNU), Hanoi University of Public Health (HUPH), Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry (HUAF) exploring a case of patient No. 116, a 29-year-old Vietnamese male doctor working at Emergency department doctor at Dong Anh branch of National Hospital of Tropical Disease in Hanoi, Vietnam which raising the concern of management and control measures of the pandemic under the biorisk management lenses.
The session followed with presentation from a guest speaker – Dr. Nguyen Thanh Thuy, Director of Center of Quality Assurance and Calibration, National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE) focusing on Laboratory BioRisk Management of COVID-19
at NIHE which provided an overview of COVID-19 pandemic in Vietnam and went through the A-M-P model as among biosafety measures of the culturing and processing COVID-19 suspected samples in BSL3 lab within NIHE. As Dr. Thuy’s has made significant contributions to biosafety management and practices in Vietnam and the greater region, his active efforts in promoting biosafety and biosecurity have also been recognized by the international biorisk community. His expertise and perspective provided participants with solid practical information and knowledge on the current pandemic and how Viet Nam has so far winning its ‘war’ on coronavirus.
Professor David Brett-Major, MD, MPH, Department of Epidemiology University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health continued the session with his focus on biosafety measures for healthcare workers which linked to the case study given by One Health student team and going over questions from participants. From David’s senior experience, he provided participants with practical knowledge on how the biorisk management has actually been carrying over the years throughout the history of pandemics and epidemiological cases such as Ebola, Avian Influenza and SARS.
Dr. Eric Cook at Sandia National Laboratories concluded the session with a 30 minutes didactic presentation on Biorisk Management and its consequences. He explained the concept of hazard and risk assessment as well as how it related to the case studies and presentations from guest speakers.
Taking into account the current situation of Covid-19 pandemic over the world and in Viet Nam as well as the social distancing order, the series of monthly remote engagement sessions are expected to provide students and participants the unique and practical information on biorisk management and control activities in Vietnam with One Health approach. By using rich-media synchronous technologies such as video conferencing and web conferencing, this type of engagement provided opportunities for dynamic, real-time knowledge sharing, peer/teacher support, and non-hierarchical inter-professional social interaction not easily accomplished through asynchronous means where information is received through a time lag.