Health Protection Surveillance Centre - EPIET
Tel. + 353 (0) 1 876 5300
Fax. + 353 (0) 1 856 1299
Description of the institute
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) is Ireland’s leading specialist centre for surveillance of communicable diseases and was established in 1998. HPSC is now part of the Health Service Executive (HSE), which has operational responsibility for the running of health services in Ireland. The population of Ireland is just over 4.5 million.
The remit of HPSC is to improve the health of the Irish population by the collation, interpretation and provision of the best possible information on infectious diseases. This is achieved through surveillance and independent advice, epidemiological investigation, research and training.
HPSC works in partnership with health service providers within Ireland and internationally to ensure that up to date information is available to contribute to the effective control of infectious diseases.
HPSC has approximately 50 staff, including public health doctors, consultant microbiologists, surveillance scientists, nurses, trainees, administrative and IT staff.
Health Protection Surveillance Centre activities
Surveillance of Communicable Diseases
HPSC is statutorily responsible for the collation, analysis and dissemination of notifiable disease data in Ireland. The online Computerised Infectious Diseases Reporting (CIDR) system is used to manage the surveillance and control of infectious diseases in Ireland and is used by microbiology laboratories, the eight regional Departments of Public Health and HPSC. Clinical and microbiological data are collected in CIDR on 77 of the 84 notifiable infectious diseases and for selected diseases enhanced surveillance is conducted. Data on infectious disease outbreaks are also collected on the system. Outputs include weekly, quarterly and annual epidemiological reports and the provision of data to various EU, ECDC (TESSy) and WHO networks
Ireland has a comprehensive influenza surveillance system in place. Data from a sentinel General Practitioner (GP) surveillance scheme in conjunction with virological testing are analysed and reported from HPSC on a weekly basis. This activity is in collaboration with the Irish College of General Practitioners, the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) and HPSC. Supplementary data on influenza activity are also collated, analysed and reported on in the weekly influenza report, including critical care admissions due to influenza, respiratory admissions data reported from a network of sentinel hospitals, outbreaks and influenza death registrations
Surveillance of antimicrobial resistance is undertaken by HPSC and the data contribute to the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (EARS-Net) system and the European Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance (Euro-GASP).
HPSC produces a comprehensive annual epidemiological report covering all areas of communicable disease surveillance conducted in Ireland and is available at www.hpsc.ie.
HPSC is the designated Competent Body for liaison with ECDC and is Ireland’s national WHO International Health Regulations (IHR) focal point for communicable diseases.
Surveillance of immunisation and vaccine programmes
HPSC monitors vaccine uptake and vaccine effectiveness, particularly in the routine schedule of immunisation of infants and school children. HPSC also monitors influenza vaccine uptake in healthcare workers and the elderly and participates in the multi-country IMOVE influenza vaccine effectiveness study.
Investigation and control of communicable disease
Responsibility for control of communicable diseases rests with the country’s eight regional Directors of Public Health (Medical Officer of Health). HPSC provides expert assistance, as required, in the investigation and management of outbreaks or incidents of communicable disease and chairs national outbreaks on behalf of the national Medical Officer of Health. HPSC also monitors emerging threats e.g. avian influenza, Zika virus infection etc. and preparedness plans are in place for the management of these threats.
HPSC conducts research into communicable disease to provide evidence for policy changes. HPSC is involved in a number of ECDC-funded research projects including SpID-Net, IMOVE and Pertinent. HPSC also participates in the VENICE project, funded by ECDC, as one of the leading partners and contributes to the monitoring of uptake for seasonal influenza in EU/EEA countries. HPSC is involved in behavioural surveillance among men who have sex with men (MSM), e.g. MISI2015 and EMIS 2010 and 2017.
Teaching and Training
HPSC is committed to training and professional development. All staff are encouraged to participate in training activities which are available within HPSC or externally.
HPSC is approved by the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland as a site for higher specialist training of Specialist Registrars in Public Health Medicine.
Medical and scientific staff lecture/teach in University College Dublin and other colleges on the epidemiology of infectious diseases, immunisation and outbreak investigations.
Media Reporting on Communicable diseases
HPSC staff regularlly respond to media requests on national communicable disease issues (television, radio and print media).
HPSC provides advice to the Department of Health, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, HSE areas, Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), safefood, Department of Agriculture and the Marine, Department of Foreign Affairs, Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme, National Immunisation Advisory Committee and other external agencies.
HPSC staff participate in many external agency working groups and are required to provide evidence-based guidance.
The Scientific Advisory Committee of HPSC is a multidisciplinary committee and develops guidelines on communicable disease prevention, surveillance and control.
EPIET fellows will be involved in many activities at HPSC including surveillance work, outbreak investigations, research, teaching and scientific communications (written and oral).
EPIET fellows will be based at HPSC in Dublin.. However, the EPIET fellow may also obtain experience in sites outside of Dublin during outbreak investigations.
Examples of previous projects in which EPIET fellows have been involved include: national telephone and omnibus surveys to determine vaccination uptake in adult populations;; various outbreak investigations (including gastroenteric and measles outbreaks, also cases-control studies on (a) HIV in persons who inject drugs and association with new psychoactive substances and (b) hepatitis A associated with consumption of frozen berries; outbreaks due to healthcare associated infections were also investigated); national survey to determine uptake of Hib vaccine during booster programme; evaluation of surveillance systems (e.g. TB,HIV and invasive meningococcal disease), a hepatitis C virus seroprevalence study in the Irish population (collaborative study with NVRL), analysis of MSM Internet Survey Ireland (MISI) 2015, and projects involving time series analysis
EPIET fellows are encouraged and given opportunities to teach at Irish and external academic institutes during their training.
EPIET fellows are encouraged to collaborate with Irish-based EUPHEM fellows.
Participation in short-term overseas assignments is encouraged.
EPIET fellows have numerous opportunities to present their research and investigations at national and international conferences.
EPIET fellows are provided with opportunities to avail of additional training opportunities within HPSC or Ireland.
HPSC has weekly scientific meetings, monthly journal club meetings, monthly training and research forum meetings (forum for EPIET fellows and HPSC-based Irish trainees in Public Health Medicine to present project plans and outputs with peers).
The EPIET fellow can participate in scientific meetings organised by external clinical and laboratory societies.
The designated supervisor usually changes with each cohort. However, all trainees, regardless of the cohort, are supervised by medical or scientific staff working in HPSC. Project-specific supervisors are identified depending on the subject-matter expertise. The areas of speciality include respiratory infections, vaccine preventable diseases, gastroenteric, zoonotic and vectorborne diseases, hepatitis, HIV and STIs, antimicrobial resistance and healthcare associated infections and emergency planning.
The EPIET fellow must be fluent in written and spoken English.
Number of EPIET fellows trained at institute: Thirteen (cohort 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016; includes three MS-track in 2012, 2014, 2016)
Number of fellows in training at the institute: Two (cohort 2017 and 2018, EU-track and MS-track, respectively)
Number of EPIET alumni working at institute: Four