Health security and infectious diseases

Health Security Committee activities

Priority issues

  • detection and communication – preparedness requires timely detection and rapid distribution of information to relevant stakeholders.
  • threat and risk assessment – HSC collects data on threats and risks from relevant EU agencies, and shares these with national authorities.
  • preparedness – HSC seeks to expand national capacity for preparedness by offering technical assistance and guidelines.
  • scientific advice – responding to a public health crisis requires rapid mobilisation of experts, and expert opinions are shared via alert and communication systems.
  • crisis management and testing of plans– with the help of national authorities the HSC has developed protocols and guidelines for best preparedness practices and has tested emergency plans through several exercises.
  • cooperation – HSC supports preparedness across sectors and internationally, supporting and promoting the WHO International Health Regulations and creating links between alert systems across Europe and more globally.

A more detailed description of the priorities and activities of the HSC can be found in the Commission Staff Working Document Health Security in the European Union and Internationally.

Examples of HSC activities

  • Refugees / Migration following unrest in North African countries in 2011 - The HSC discussed the risk of spread of communicable diseases in refugee camps in EU Member States and  challenges for national healthcare that resulted thereof, and sanitary issues in the camps.
  • Volcano ash cloud in 2010 – The HSC discussed the possible impact of the volcano eruption such as possible effects from ask particles, interruption in transport of transplants and medical prescriptions for persons stranded abroad.
  • Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 – Frequent HSC meetings were held every day during the peak of the pandemic. The HSC was the key body for coordinating the response in the EU. It was a platform for sharing information on countermeasures (e.g. vaccination strategies) and for coordinating communication to health workers and for EU citizens.
  • Shortage of radio-isotopes for medical use in 2008 – EU health ministers requested the HSC to consider coordinated actions which could be taken to counter the lack of radio-isotopes used for health purposes (e.g. diagnostics and treatment of cancers and heart disease).