The Ministry of Health of Panama (MINSA) received several reports of ill persons who had clinical presentations of acute renal insufficiency or failure during September and October 2006. On 01 October 2006, the MINSA formally asked the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assist with the investigation. Additional agencies involved in the response included the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Gorgas Institute for Health Studies (GIHS), and the Social Security Health System (SSHS) of Panama. Through a joint effort, the MINSA, CDC, FDA, GIHS, SSHS, and PAHO were able to characterize the illness, identify the etiological agent, identify the population-at-risk, and launch an unprecedented media and social mobilization effort to prevent additional cases.
International outbreak responses may require familiarity with basic emergency management principles beyond technical or scientific considerations. The management, logistical capabilities, team interaction, and efficiency of outbreak investigations can be enhanced substantially by having staff already familiar with common operational frameworks for incident responses. This report describes the inter-agency coordination and organizational structure implemented during an international response to identify the cause of an outbreak of acute renal failure in Panama.