Communicable diseases

Policy

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

EU network

An EU network for the epidemiological surveillance and control of communicable diseases has been in place since 1999. It focuses on:

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

ECDC was set up in 2005 to assist the EU by identifying and assessing the risk of current and emerging threats to human health posed by infectious diseases.