EUGLOREH project
THE STATUS OF HEALTH IN THE EUROPEAN UNION:
TOWARDS A HEALTHIER EUROPE

FULL REPORT

PART II - HEALTH CONDITIONS

6. MAIN COMMUNICABLE DISEASES AND RELATED TIME-TRENDS: PREVALENCE, INCIDENCE AND MORTALITY

6.4. Control tools and policies

6.4.3. Pandemic preparedness

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6.4.3. Pandemic preparedness

 

The avian influenza epidemic has given rise to grave concerns that an influenza pandemic could be imminent, due to H5N1 or another strain, fully adapted to human-to-human transmission and causing millions of deaths in Europe and elsewhere. When the pandemic does occur, it will result in health systems being stretched, hospitals saturated, transport and essential services paralysed, heavy economic losses, ethical dilemmas and social disruption.

 

The European Union has taken strict measures to fight avian flu, but it is mainly and ultimately the responsibility of each Health Minister to take the national measures best adapted to fight human pandemics. Despite its limited competences in this field and encouraged by the good level of European and international collaboration during the SARS epidemic, the Commission has made several attempts to help improve the pandemic preparedness of the EU Member States

 

The Commission has addressed pandemic preparedness in key documents covering in particular:

 

·          preparedness and response plans by the EU countries;

·          outbreak management;

·          early notification of cases;

·          outbreak assistance and coordination of responses;

·          surveillance and networking;

·          reference laboratories to identify the strain quickly; and

·          availability of vaccines and anti-viral drugs.

 

The Commission also supports a number of European public health (European Influenza Surveillance Scheme) and research projects with the main objective to improve the development of suitable pandemic vaccines, in consultation with the European Medicines Agency.

 

Furthermore, the Commission organised in 2005 two scenario exercises (pandemics and smallpox) to test the execution of the national plans of the Member States. They aimed at improving the interoperability of the national plans, availability of countermeasures, and the suitability of containment measures. In order to substantially reduce the impact of a pandemic, Member States must maximise the availability and use of both vaccines and antiviral drugs.