VNR: Flu pandemic: EU getting ready for global response (long version)
Only a coordinated global response will be capable of fighting a pandemic, since viruses know no borders. If the H5N1 virus – originally from birds – comes to mutate and transmit from human to human, it will result in a world-wide pandemic with heavy consequences.
Europe drew lessons from SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which appeared in China and spread very rapidly to other regions of the world, affecting more than 8000 people of whom more than 800 died) and has created the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) in Stockholm. Its mission: to be better prepared for future epidemics in order to react more quickly and more efficiently.
Utrecht in the Netherlands is home to an ECDC partner called the European Influenza Surveillance Scheme (EISS). This network covering 28 countries monitors seasonal flu. Its statistics can point to any unusual seasonal influenza events.
Surveillance is all very well but if it is combined with a rapid response it is even better. In Luxembourg, the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) connects the Member States, the European Commission and the ECDC. Its main mission is the rapid exchange of information on the outbreak of communicable disease. Its second goal is to offer an efficient reaction capability.
In order to counter the pandemic’s rapid spread, access to vaccines and antivirals must be facilitated. The European Medicines Agency wants these drugs to become available much more quickly.