Press release

MEPs seek tough measures on bird flu

Public health - 01-12-2005 - 12:47
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MEPs seek tough measures on bird flu

Avian Flu

The European Parliament is pushing for tougher measures to control bird flu. It wants improved early warning systems so that the authorities are immediately informed about any outbreak of the virus even if it is low pathogenic flu with few symptoms, because that can mutate into the highly pathogenic deadly form. The Parliament also urges the development of low-cost vaccines for poultry and a coordinated emergency plan in the event of human contamination.

MEPs are calling for tough new measures on avian flu control. These measures, which the Parliament wants to come into force as quickly as possible, introduce compulsory surveillance in the Member States for Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza, which can mutate into the Highly Pathogenic form. The House also emphasises the need to develop cost-effective vaccines for poultry.
Parliament seeks to beef up the measures to be taken by the EU if bird flu hits Europe. Firstly, early warning systems must be improved, say the House; the authorities must be informed immediately of any outbreak of the virus, even if it is believed to be Low Pathogenic.
Temporary restrictions could be introduced on the transport of birds in the event of a crisis, pending the findings of epidemiological surveys, says the Parliament.  Poultry and other birds must not be moved to other establishments until it is established that there is no risk they will spread the disease. Eggs can be exempted in order to be transported to a processing plant, as thermal elimination of the virus is regarded as more effective by MEPs than destruction on the spot.   Robust contingency plans should also be drawn up to deal with any outbreak and to ensure proper co-ordination among animal and public health authorities.
MEPs say that robust contingency plans should also be drawn up to deal with any outbreak and to ensure proper co-ordination among animal and public health authorities. All good sense measures must be taken so that confidence among consumers is restored.
The measures to be taken in the event of a crisis in the EU's neighbouring countries should also be tightened up, with restrictions on movements and imports from non-EU countries, the extension of protection zones to the EU's neighbours and the supply of vaccines where these countries are unable to combat a crisis without outside assistance.
For cases of human contamination, MEPs believe coordinated emergency plans should be envisaged, notably to determine the measures to be put in place in the event of a confirmed risk. These emergency plans would promote coordination between Member States as well as targeting populations needing to be vaccinated as a matter of priority. Anti-virals and vaccines must be as widely available as possible: Member States must create sufficient stockpiles of anti-virals and ensure that they have adequate capacity to produce vaccines against the strain causing the crisis. If a crisis occurs outside the EU, the House believes the Commission should be able to act within 24 hours by imposing measures such as quarantine, the disinfection of any airports receiving flights from certain regions and travel restrictions.
Parliament also recommends closer cooperation with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, based at Solna in Sweden.  The role of this agency, which began operations in May 2005, is to help strengthen Europe's defences against infectious diseases such as influenza, SARS and HIV/AIDS.
More funding for veterinary measures
The Parliament will also adopted a report on veterinary expenditure. Here the House stresses the need for equal co-financing rates for outbreaks of both High Pathogenic and Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza. The report calls for a Community-Member State ratio of 50-50 for both types, recognising the need to eradicate the Low Pathogenic form as this can mutate into HPAI. Parliament also favours the idea of the Community paying 100% of the cost of vaccinations.
These two reports have been adopted following the presentation by the European Commission of a proposed directive designed to update measures to be taken in the event of an outbreak of avian influenza. After Parliament's vote on Thursday the ball will be in the court of the Council, which plans to push through the legislation (a priority of the UK Presidency) before the end of the year.
REF.: 20051128IPR02947