What we do

People working in ECDC on detecting outbreak threats of infectious diseases

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was established in 2005. It is an EU agency aimed at strengthening Europe's defences against infectious diseases.

Our mission is to identify, assess and communicate current and emerging threats to human health posed by infectious diseases. (1)

Our main objectives are to:

  • search for, collect, collate, evaluate and disseminate relevant scientific and technical data;
  • provide scientific opinions and scientific and technical assistance including training;
  • provide timely information to the Commission, the Member States, Community agencies and international organisations active within the field of public health;
  • coordinate the European networking of bodies operating in the fields within the Centre's mission, including networks that emerge from public health activities supported by the Commission and operating the dedicated surveillance networks;
  • exchange information, expertise, and best practices, and facilitate the development and implementation of joint actions.

(1) According to Article 3 of the Founding Regulation

Our activities

We process surveillance data on some 60 communicable diseases and related special health issues from all 27 European Union (EU) Member States and two of the three remaining European Economic Area (EEA) countries (Iceland and Norway).

Surveillance objectives:

  • Monitor trends in communicable diseases over time and across Member States to assess the present situation, respond to rises above warning thresholds and facilitate appropriate evidence-based action;
  • Detect and monitor any multinational communicable disease outbreaks with respect to source, time, population and place in order to provide a rationale for public health action;
  • Contribute to the evaluation and monitoring of prevention and control programmes targeted at communicable disease surveillance
  • Identify population groups at risk and in need of targeted prevention measures;
  • Contribute to the assessment of the burden of communicable diseases on the population using such data as disease prevalence, complications, hospitalisation and mortality;
  • Generate hypotheses on (new) sources, modes of transmission and groups most at risk and identify needs for research and pilot projects. 

EU/EEA routine surveillance open data policy

We are committed to ensuring that the EU and its Member States are prepared for and enabled to respond effectively to infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics. 

Surveillance and outbreak tools (europa.eu)

We ensure that preventative actions are taken in advance of outbreaks. This includes:

  • assessments of preparedness capacities in EU/EEA Member States
  • identification and sharing of good practices, such as evidence-based tools and guidance, especially for national emergency planning
  • identifying, prioritizing and understanding risks and vulnerabilities
  • develop and appraise the evidence-base surrounding the effectiveness of infectious disease control and public health and social measures
  • fostering cross-sector partnerships
  • fostering research preparedness and supporting the development and use of platforms for early warning and response
  • Preparedness workforce capacity building through training and the development of training curricula.

We provide support during and after emergencies. This includes:

  • rapid risk assessments
  • coordination across EU Member States and partner organisations
  • Protocols for outbreak investigation and contact tracing
  • field deployments and the mobilisation of the EU Health Task Force
  • in-action and after-action reviews and simulation exercises.

These actions help respond to an outbreak and identify where adjustments to national emergency plans could be made to be better prepared for the next outbreak.

We also support Member States to recover and return operations to normal after outbreaks.

ECDC’s scientific advice aims to support informed decisions and actions at the European and national levels. It summarises available evidence and describes the strengths and limitations of different public health options to prevent and/or control communicable diseases.

Microbiology laboratories are a first line of defence against health threats from communicable diseases. Adequate laboratory capacity is a critical component of health system preparedness by allowing rapid detection of infectious diseases and identification of transmissible agents.

In the area of microbiology ECDC has a specific mandate to ‘strengthen the capacity within the Union to diagnose, detect, identify and characterise infectious agents which have the potential to threaten public health’ (Publications Office (europa.eu) ECDC mandate).

ECDC works closely with the EU Member States to strengthen and assess laboratory capacity and to ensure that standardized and high-quality microbiology data are an integrated part of surveillance and cross-border outbreak investigation.

To further develop the laboratory capacity in the EU, ECDC will ensure the integrated operation of a network of EU reference laboratories. These will support the national laboratories and promote good practice and alignment of testing methods and data reporting (Publications Office (europa.eu) SCBTH).

Molecular surveillance, most commonly based on whole genome sequencing-based methods, enhances epidemiological communicable disease surveillance and supports tracing infection patterns and sources of outbreaks while providing genome-based predictions on pathogen properties.

Major ECDC projects in this area include:

  • whole genome sequencing infrastructure support under HERA Incubator and EU4Health
  • training programme in genomic epidemiology and public health bioinformatics (GenEpi-BioTrain)
  • EU/EEA laboratory capacity surveys (EU LabCap).

The ECDC Disease Programmes coordinate operational disease networks. As part of these networks, we support several sub-networks or consortia of public health microbiology laboratories in EU Member States.

A forum of National Microbiology Focal Points provides input to ECDC’s multiannual public health microbiology strategy as well as strategic input to set annual priorities together with the public health microbiology programme. It works in close cooperation with ECDC’s Advisory Forum and Coordinating Competent Bodies.

Read more on laboratory support

We support and coordinate training programmes in order to assist Member States and the Commission to have sufficient numbers of trained specialists, in particular in epidemiological surveillance and field investigations, and to have the capability to define health measures to control disease outbreaks. (2)

Training activities are focused in three areas:

Read more about the EPIET and EUPHEM - Team Coordination

(2) Article 9, Regulation 851/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004, establishing ECDC.

ECDC's main communication goal is to help its target audiences make informed decisions about their health and the health of others, through active engagement and the provision of relevant, easy-to-understand and actionable content about infectious diseases epidemiology, prevention, and control, in collaboration with Member States, the European Commission and other partners across the EU and globally.

This is done through:

  • risk, crisis and external communication
  • activities related to media relations
  • web management
  • social media
  • stakeholder engagement
  • internal communication.

ECDC tailors its activities to a number of target audiences including:

  • health professionals
  • policymakers
  • media and the general public.

ECDC works together with a wide range of communication stakeholders at national, EU and international levels as well as with umbrella professional and patient organisations, clinical societies, and NGOs whose interests intersect with the Centre’s spheres of activities, when their communication objectives are in line with those of ECDC.

 

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