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European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

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Tuesday, 29 March 2005

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

Communicable disease outbreaks can pose a significant threat to the health and well being of the European Union’s citizens. In a European Union where millions of people cross internal and external borders each day, tackling health threats requires a much closer co-operation between Member States, the European Commission, the World Health Organisation and affected countries around the world. The European Union citizens place a very high value on the protection of their health. Since 1999, the Commission has managed a Communicable Diseases Network. This is currently based on ad hoc cooperation between Member States within the legal framework of Council and Parliament Decision 2119/98/EC. However, there is a need for a substantial reinforcement of this system if the European Union is to be in a position to control communicable diseases effectively.
In Spring 2004 the Council and the European Parliament adopted enabling legislation to create a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. This new EU agency will provide a structured and systematic approach to the control of communicable diseases and other serious health threats which affect European Union citizens. The ECDC will also mobilise and significantly reinforce the synergies between the existing national centres for disease control.
Main tasks of the ECDC will include:
- Epidemiological surveillance and networking of laboratories
- Early Warning and Response
- Scientific opinions
- Technical Assistance and Communication
Mrs Zsuzsanna Jakab, a senior public health official from Hungary, has been nominated the Centre’s first Director.

At the international level, the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) of teh World Health Organisation is a technical collaboration of existing institutions and networks who pool human and technical resources for the rapid identification, confirmation and response to outbreaks of international importance. The Network provides an operational framework to link this expertise and skill to keep the international community constantly alert to the threat of outbreaks and ready to respond.The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network contributes towards global health security by combating the international spread of outbreaks and ensuring that appropriate technical assistance reaches affected states rapidly and contributing to long-term epidemic preparedness and capacity building.
Efforts on alerts on communicable disease outbreaks in African countries are key and require obviously more attention (see last Marburg outbreak in Angola).