Preparedness planning for respiratory viruses in EU Member States
Three case studies on MERS preparedness in the EU
ECDC has initiated a case study project to investigate the emergency preparedness status of the health and other sectors in EU Member States. The work has focused on preparedness for a respiratory viral pandemic, with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) given as the specific disease of concern.
Three countries participated in this case study – England, Greece, and Spain.
This report on Preparedness planning for respiratory viruses in EU Member States is based on three case studies that provide a review of pandemic preparedness in the European Union by using the example of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
The study covers three EU countries, the United Kingdom (with a focus on England), Greece, and Spain. It uses a qualitative case study methodology, including:
- a review of documents such as preparedness policies, standard operation procedures, contingency plans, risk assessment protocols and lessons learned from previous outbreaks or exercises;
- a series of interviews conducted in each country.
The summary report presents the main strengths highlighted during exploratory work in the three countries. Specifically, it takes note of the following:
- Key stakeholders perceive the level of pandemic preparedness to be adequate to cope with a viral respiratory threat such as MERS, and organisational structures, resources and capacities are in place.
- Knowledge and experience on health threats has accumulated while responding to public health events such as SARS, the A(H1N1) pandemic, MERS, and Ebola.
- Laboratory and surveillance networks are being maintained and upgraded.
- Collaboration between human and animal health sectors have well-established and proven interoperability particularly in relation with avian influenza.
The report also suggests further steps to strengthen preparedness, and inter-sectorial and cross-border collaboration. As a means of strengthening preparedness especially for serious cross-border threats, a number of possible steps are suggested:
- Sustaining public health preparedness capacity remains a key policy.
- Assessing challenges of implementing policies at the local level is important to identify areas where support may been needed.
- Interoperability of preparedness plans across health and non-health sectors needs to be ensured.
- Cross-border collaboration could be strengthened by multi-country simulation exercises. Taken financial constraints in some countries, EU support for such exercises could be a valuable investment.