Global Alert and Response (GAR)

Alert & Response Operations

WHO continues to track the evolving infectious disease situation, sound the alarm when needed, share expertise, and mount the kind of response needed to protect populations from the consequences of epidemics, whatever and wherever might be their origin.

:: International Health Regulations (IHR) – Operational aspects

The International Health Regulations (2005) or "IHR (2005)" have been in force since 15 June 2007. The purpose and scope of the IHR (2005) are to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade. The IHR (2005) provide a framework for WHO epidemic alert and rapid response activities already being implemented in collaboration with countries to control international outbreaks and to strengthen international public health security.

The IHR (2005) introduce new operational concepts including:

  • Specific procedures for disease surveillance, notification and reporting of public health events and risks to WHO by countries
  • Requests by WHO for verification of public health events occurring within countries
  • Rapid collaborative risk assessment with and assistance to countries
  • Determinations as to whether an event constitutes a public health emergency of international concern
  • Coordination of international response

:: Comprehensive event management for international outbreak alert and response

Epidemiological data and operational information about outbreaks is dynamic and changes rapidly. WHO has developed a comprehensive “event management system” to manage critical information about outbreaks and ensure accurate and timely communications between key international public health professionals, including WHO Regional Offices, Country Offices, collaborating centres and partners in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network.

Features of the event management system include:

  • Comprehensive databases on epidemic intelligence, verification status, laboratory investigation and operational information.
  • Tracking and recording outbreak history, critical decisions, important actions by WHO and partners and key documents.
  • Management of logistic support and specialized response equipment, materials and supplies.
  • Integrated database on the skills, experience and availability of international experts for response teams.
  • Profiling of technical institutions in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network concentrating on readiness and capacity to support international outbreak response.
  • Standardized information products for Member States, public health officials, media and the public.
  • Communications with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network to enhance operational readiness.

The WHO event management system generates a dynamic picture of Alert and Response Operations and provides information for action in a systematic way to enable both WHO and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network to prepare better, respond faster, and manage resources more effectively. The WHO event management system is being further strengthened to support alert and response operational aspects of the revised International Health Regulations.

:: Responding to intentional use of biological agents

WHO’s global alert and response activities and the Outbreak Alert and Response Network represent a major pillar of global health security aimed at the detection, verification and containment of epidemics. In the event of the intentional release of a biological agent these activities would be vital to effective international containment efforts.


Epidemic alert and verification: summary report 2005

Disease Outbreaks

  • 12 March 2014
    Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – update
  • 11 March 2014
    Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – update
  • 11 March 2014
    Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – update