Over the last decades, EU countries have fought infectious diseases with success through treatment and prevention. Rates of infectious diseases have either fallen or remained stable, and the majority of deaths in EU countries are now due to non-infectious diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

However, micro-organisms adapt themselves and we have to expect new and emerging infections, as with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, variants of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the 1990s, SARS in 2003 and pandemic influenza. Other challenges – like micro-organisms' resistance to antibiotics – also have to be tackled.

In response to the threat of communicable diseases, EU policy has focused on:

  • surveillance
  • rapid detection
  • rapid response