Answer given by Mr Kyprianou on behalf of the Commission
The Commission closely collaborates with the Member States on improving pandemic influenza preparedness through the Health Security Committee and its working groups, namely the two working groups on medicines and on influenza preparedness planning. In addition, a network of national flu coordinators is in the process of being established to ensure better collaboration on issues that go beyond the public health sector, such as civil protection, movement restrictions and transportation.
The Community network on communicable diseases set up by Decision 2119/98/EC(1) continues to be used as a communication tool among the Member States and the Commission for sharing epidemiological data and early notification of public health counter measures. The early warning and response system part of this network has proven its usefulness during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis and has been successfully tested during a scenario exercise carried out in November 2005.
The collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has been intensified through the organisation of joint workshops on assessing national preparedness. The preparatory work for the next joint workshop on national preparedness planning, which will be the third of its kind, is well underway. This time the workshop will take place in Stockholm in mid May 2006. It is expected that this meeting will further contribute to enabling Member States and the WHO European Region to exchange best practice on how to update their plans and close the gaps that still exist.
Assessing national preparedness and sharing advice on best practice is also enhanced through visits to Member States. Jointly with the ECDC and WHO Europe, three Member States have already been visited and six more Member States are planned to be assessed this spring.
Taking avian influenza as a test case for implementing an integrated zoonoses strategy, the Commission continues to organise meetings of animal and public health senior policy decision‑makers in order to ensure better cooperation between both sectors. The next meeting of the chief veterinary officers/chief medical officers is scheduled for early May 2006.
In order to improve the external dimension of pandemic influenza preparedness the Commission is engaged in maintaining close working relations with the World Bank, the United Nations, the United States and the WHO. The Commission took on a major role at the international conference held in January 2006 in Beijing with the aim to promote, mobilise and help coordinate financial support from the donor community for the national, regional and global response to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), and to support efforts to prepare for a possible human pandemic. Together with the Presidency, the Commission is now preparing for a follow up meeting of senior officials to take place in Vienna early in June 2006 to structure the global partnership on avian and human pandemic influenza.
Decision No 2119/98/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 24 September 1998 setting up a network for the epidemiological surveillance and control of communicable diseases in the Community, OJ L 268, 3.10.1998.