ECDC activities on surveillance
ECDC processes 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).
The systematic ongoing collection, analysis, interpretation and dissemination of highly structured information (‘indicators’) for public health action is referred to as Indicator-based surveillance. It is complemented by event-based surveillance, the detection, verification, analysis, assessment and further investigation of potential public health threats (‘events’). The joint platform eventually integrating both forms of surveillance is EpiPulse, the European surveillance portal for infectious diseases.
General surveillance objectives are to:
- 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 in order to provide the evidence for recommendations to strengthen and improve these programmes at the national and European level;
- 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.
Standardising EU/EEA surveillance
Data submission and subsequent validation is the responsibility of European networks of disease experts nominated by Member States and coordinated by ECDC through its disease programmes.
Surveillance data collected at the European level are predominantly case-based and comprise demographic, clinical, epidemiological and laboratory information. They are reported annually or at shorter intervals, as required for specific objectives, outputs and ensuing public health actions.
ECDC and the European disease networks ensure standardised reporting and data comparability across the EU/EEA through use of common (externally quality-assured) diagnostic and typing methods, case definitions, metadata and reporting protocols.
The technical platform for web-based data submission, data storage and dissemination is The European Surveillance System (TESSy): a password-protected pseudonymised database hosted by ECDC. For TESSy inquiries or technical support, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aggregate EU/EEA surveillance data are published in the Surveillance Atlas of Infectious Diseases, the Annual Epidemiological Reports, enhanced disease-specific surveillance reports, dashboards, interactive databases and peer-reviewed scientific articles. Aggregate datasets are also increasingly published as directly downloadable open data on the ECDC web portal.
The default users of case-based EU/EEA surveillance data are ECDC and nominated Member State surveillance experts, but data access may also be granted to third parties upon request.