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Preparedness and capacity building for emerging epidemics

Improving the diagnostic and monitoring of encephalitis viruses in Europe with the suport of the European Network for Diagnostics of Imported Viral Diseases

EC contribution
: € 523 218
: 39 months
Starting date
: 01/01/2005
Project type:
: Public Health Programme/ Surveillance Network
: encephalitis, virus, diagnostic
Project Number
: 2004206


A European network of collaboration was established to deal with the emerging problems of imported viral diseases and the great number of viral pathogens. The improvement of diagnostics of these 'imported' and emerging virus infections is the most important step in detecting and dealing with the pathogens. Therefore, there should be a European collaboration in the area of diagnostics of these virus infections through the implementation of the European Network for Diagnostics of 'Imported' Viral Diseases (ENIVD).

The ENIVD project serves as a focal point for this initiative in Europe and is a body recognised by the European Community and the Global Outbreak and Alert Response Network of the World Health Organization (WHO). This network has been operating for 12 years and has received partial funding for some projects from the EC.

Another field of interest concerns the presence of the recently emerged West Nile virus (WNV) - we have no clear information on its distribution in Europe. The WNV epidemic in the USA has clearly shown the spreading power of WNV; there are no guarantees that a similar epidemic could not occur in Europe. A certain part of neurological illness (encephalitis and meningo-encephalitis) remains without aetiological diagnosis because of the lack of understanding and/or use of suitable assays. Infections like West Nile or Sandfly Fever (SF) would be hard to diagnose even though we must consider that they will be imported occasionally.

Furthermore, in most cases, Tick Borne Encephalitis (TBE) will be diagnosed only if a link to a tick bite and/or stay in endemic areas is known. The reason for that may be twofold: the clinicians may not be aware of the disease, and that the diagnostics for these kinds of infections require a greater awareness and improved diagnostic assays. All of these viruses are also potential pathogens for biological terrorist attacks. Although they are ranked with lower priority, most of them will attract the same public attention as other bioterrorism (BT) threats.

Besides WNV, several viral agents can be the cause of human encephalitis, as there are Herpes Simplex virus 1 and 2 (HSV1 and HSV2), Epstein Barr virus (EBV), Rotavirus, Parvovirus B19 (PVB19), Enterovirus, Dengue virus, Japanese Encephalitis virus (JEV), Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), Saint Louis encephalitis (SLE), Influenza, Mumps, Measles, Nipah and Hendra. A better understanding of the clinical presentation of encephalitis caused by these viral agents is required. Moreover, a quick differentiation will strengthen the emergency response capacity in Europe.

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