Preparedness planning for respiratory viruses in EU Member States

Technical report
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European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Preparedness planning for respiratory viruses in EU Member States – Three case studies on MERS preparedness in the EU. Stockholm: ECDC; 2015.

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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.

Executive summary

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.