Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Note about the EU Parliamentary Seminar, Brussels, 6 November:

Should there be an EU Centre for communicable disease surveillance

  Julius Weinberg, Specialist Adviser and Rebecca Neal, Clerk attended this seminar. This note outlines the main points covered. There were a number of speakers from various Infectious Disease surveillance centres in EU states and also representatives from the CDC in Atlanta, the WHO in Geneva and the lead civil servant from the EU Commission.


  1.  There was agreement that EU collaboration was necessary because infectious diseases do not respect borders.

  2.  There have been attempts to collaborate over the last ten years or so: a Community Network on Communicable Disease Surveillance and Control was set up in 1996. This was not viewed as extremely successful because of a lack of expert co-ordination, and because there was no readily identifiable contact point for rapid response to outbreaks.


  3.  Participants expressed different views about what an EU centre should do. Some spoke about building up a virtual centre, and others appeared to envisage a large centre similar to the CDC in Atlanta.

  4.  However, many participants agreed that there should be a small centre based in one of the EU countries. This would provide an obvious contact point when faced with potential outbreaks.

  5.  The relevant civil servant from the Commission proposed "a small but strong centre" that would draw on and co-ordinate expertise in nation states.


  6.  Data on infectious disease from different European countries are not necessarily compatible preventing meaningful comparison and effective surveillance.

  7.  It was suggested that there were not enough experts in Europe to man a large CDC-type centre as well as nation-based surveillance centres.

  8.  The success of an EU centre would depend in part on integrating national surveillance effectively. Yet much is reproduced at present, with a large number of surveillance centres specialising in infections such as Ebola (at least five in the EU, whereas in the US, for example, there are only two comparable centres).

  9.  It would be very important for any European-wide surveillance centre to work with the World Health Organisation, which is a leader in global surveillance and already has research and surveillance centres in Europe.

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