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EU Steps Up Action On Novel Flu Virus

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Commission is leading EU Member States' coordination efforts to exchange information on surveillance, case definition and measures taken by EU countries to respond to this novel flu virus. The situation is changing rapidly and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is monitoring the situations on a continuous basis. The Commission holds daily audio meetings with the EU's Health Security Committee and national contact points of the Early Warning Rapid Alert System (EWRS) with the aim of adopting a common guidance document on managing the novel flu virus.

This will include information on the case definition, advice to travellers and management of cases. Earlier this week health Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou called for an extraordinary Health Ministers' meeting which will take place in Luxembourg today. The meeting will discuss further common approaches to tackling the novel flu virus including countermeasures such as anti-virals and vaccines.

Health Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou said: "We have learned valuable lessons from past experiences with SARS and avian influenza. Not only are surveillance systems more robust today but we have also developed stronger collaboration mechanisms both at EU level and with our partners around the world. I am convinced that we are in a better position today to protect the health of EU citizens from health threats such as this novel flu virus."

EU concerted actions on novel flu virus

The Commission raised its level of alert to ' red' on 27 April by launching its Health Emergency Operating Facility (HEOF). WHO declared level 5 yesterday. Daily information exchange with the MS contact points continues and outcomes of the meetings are available on the SANCO website. In addition, there are regular audio meetings with the members of the Global Health Security Initiative (G7 countries, Mexico, WHO and European Commission). Commissioner Vassiliou briefed EU foreign ministers on 26 April and will discuss a common EU approach at the extraordinary health council today. Commissioner Vassiliou also met with the pharmaceutical and vaccine industry in order to be briefed on the current state of play regarding antiviral and vaccines.

Commissioner Vassiliou met yesterday with pharmaceutical industry representatives, in particular with the European Vaccine Manufacturers, to address key questions on vaccines and antivirals against the novel flu virus. The European Commission will continue to work with the industry, which is committed to contributing to the efforts in the face of novel flu virus.

The outcome of this meeting and the daily Member States' meetings with the Commission will be available on the DG Health and Consumers European Commission website.

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Current epidemiological situation in the EU

The situation is evolving quickly with 19 confirmed cases in the EU (10 in Spain, 5 in UK and 3 in Germany and 1 in Austria) as of 08h00 on 30 April. All EU confirmed cases have a history travel to Mexico, except for one case in Spain where there is evidence of transmission within the household. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is continuously monitoring the situation and providing daily epidemiological updates on its website.

Novel Influenza virus

The novel influenza virus (human swine influenza A(H1N1) has been found to contain genes from pig, bird and human influenza viruses, in a combination that has never been observed before anywhere in the world

People become infected with novel influenza virus A(H1N1) in the same way as with the normal seasonal influenza. It spreads from person to person via droplets from an infected person who is coughing and sneezing. Symptoms of novel influenza A(H1N1) in humans are usually similar to regular human seasonal influenza symptoms, involving fever of sudden onset and respiratory symptoms; diarrhoea might also occur. Severe complications can occur even in normally healthy persons who become infected with the virus. The virus is sensitive to some of the available antiviral drugs.

Commission's Health Emergency Operating Facility

The Health Emergency Operations Facility (HEOF) is a part of the Commission's public health emergency management structure, coordinated by the Senior Management Team.

The main objective of the HEOF is to provide the Commission and Member States with an overview of the situation and to ensure effective coordination between the

Commission, Member States, other associated countries (candidate countries, EEA countries), Agencies, such as European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (EMEA), and international organisations (such as the World Health Organisation) during an emergency situation.