Raw intelligence gleaned from all formal and informal sources is converted into meaningful intelligence by the WHO. Six main criteria are used to determine whether a reported disease event constitutes a cause for international concern:
- unknown disease
- potential for spread beyond national borders
- serious health impact or unexpectedly high rates of illness or death
- potential for interference with international travel or trade
- strength of national capacity to contain the outbreak
- suspected accidental or deliberate release.
Each weekday morning, the Global Alert and Response team meets to review incoming reports and rumours, assess their epidemiological significance and decide on the actions needed. Information on these events is stored in an electronic event management system which records key information, decisions and actions by WHO and its partners.
On any given day, the Global Alert and Response Team, including WHO Country Offices, WHO sub-Regional Response Teams, WHO Regional Offices, the Alert and Response Operations Centre team in Geneva and disease specialists, is responsible for responding to around 20 incoming reports of suspected outbreaks, reports of unknown disease, outbreaks undergoing verification and outbreaks at various stages of containment.