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Food and Feed Safety (19-05-2006)

EU/WHO workshop - plans for closing gaps in Europe’s pandemic preparedness

Major progress has been made in Europe’s preparedness against a possible influenza pandemic, but there is no room for complacency. This was the conclusion of the third EU/WHO workshop on pandemic preparedness, held on 15-17 May in Uppsala, Sweden. The workshop gathered senior public health officials from the EU, WHO, UN agencies and around 50 European countries.
 
Delegates pledged to share best practice on preparedness plans through a process of country visits over the next 12 months. This process will be led by the European Commission and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) for the 25 EU Member States and by WHO Europe for other European countries belonging to the WHO European region.
 
Ordinary flu also a killer
 
The workshop also stressed that ordinary seasonal influenza causes deaths, and called on European countries to meet WHO targets on vaccinating older people. At the World Health Assembly in May 2003 all WHO member countries committed to vaccinate at least 50% of the elderly population by 2006 and 75% by 2010.   Even in the EU these targets have not yet been met. Experts estimate that meeting these targets could prevent hundreds of deaths each year in the European region.
 
During the three day meeting delegates also reviewed European and worldwide experience in dealing with H5N1 avian influenza and held technical sessions on how to conduct disease surveillance during a pandemic and the development of indicators to help measure preparedness.
 
This third EU/WHO meeting follows up on workshops held in Copenhagen on 24-26 October 2005 and in Luxembourg in 2-3 March 2005. The next workshop is scheduled for May 2007.
 
Further information:
 
European Commission site on Avian Influenza:
http://ec.europa.eu/comm/dgs/health_consumer/dyna/influenza/index.cfm
 
WHO Europe site:
http://www.euro.who.int/