Influenza Pandemic preparedness
Between the summer of 2005 and the autumn of 2007, self-assessment of national influenza pandemic preparedness plans were performed in the EU and EEA countries by ECDC in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO). Results of these evaluations are available in a technical report. This huge effort also led to the development of a common protocol for assessment by ECDC, the WHO European Regional Office and the European Commission.
Communicable disease threats at mass gatherings
Mass gatherings, being an unusual and occasional assembling of large human populations in time and place, can be considered to present an increased or unusual risk for communicable disease outbreaks. Event participants carrying an infectious disease may introduce the infection to a possibly non-immune population at the event. Likewise, through return travel, infectious diseases may be carried homewards and present a public health threat to other countries worldwide. In order to minimise the risk for communicable disease outbreaks, ECDC offers support to the Member States in the preparedness activities ahead of mass gathering events. A toolkit for strengthening surveillance and response is being developed.
As the threat of deliberate release of biological agents is being repeatedly established worldwide, ECDC as the EU agency with a mandate in the area of Public Health developed a strategy paper (“The role of ECDC in incidents of intentional release of biological agents: a strategic perspective” ) to enhance the preparedness of the Member State in the fight against communicable diseases. The relationships and interactions with the stakeholders and partners of the ECDC in the event of a deliberate release of a biological agent are of common interest in the Public Health preparedness in the EU. Partners are agencies and authorities that, despite their different mandate, interact with the ECDC for the purposes defined by the situation of deliberate release of a biological agent and form cooperative partnerships with the Centre.
The ECDC is already working to identify the correct contact points in each MS in the EU for every one of its core functions in the area of public health and communicable diseases. This identification process will assist in the smooth participation in all activities and the communication of all necessary information such as threat assessments, management or communication guidance. The particular Competent Bodies are vital nodes in the flow of communication and events in any type of health crisis and the ECDC needs to make sure that an updated list is maintained and everyone, as well as his/her back up is accessible on a 24hr/7d basis. In the response to a health crisis as a result of a deliberate release of a biological agent the ECDC is aware of two contradicting forces that would be guiding the communication with the MS: need for advice, guidance and possibly assistance, and need to deal with sensitive information within the security sector.
Simulation Exercises at ecdc (January 2011)
ECDC has participated in major exercises organised by the European commission as “New Watchman” and “Common Ground” in 2005. In 2006 ECDC took part in Pandemic Preparedness national exercises organized by France and Germany.
In 2006 ECDC signed a three years framework contract with Health Protection Agency (HPA) for the development of simulation exercises on outbreak detection, investigation and response, and has been developing its own exercises. Six internal command-post exercises have been carried out, as well as three desktop exercises involving the Member States.
Brown Lagoon was the first internal simulation exercise that took place in June 2007. It was designed to provide ECDC with an opportunity to review and practice internal procedures and systems to deal with major public health events at the recently inaugurated
Emergency Operation Centre (EOC). Following the evaluation and lessons learnt, ECDC revised the Public health event operational plan (PHEOP), including the functions and tasks of ECDC staff.
“Green Field” was the second internal exercise. It was carried out in June 2008, and explored the application of the revised PHEOP during a crisis. Major improvements were observed since the previous exercise, especially in setting internal communication systems, organisation of ICT and logistic and the use of equipments and tools.
Red Wing was the first desktop exercise involving players from the Member States. It took place in September 2007 and the script aimed at exploring contact tracing procedures in the EU, based on a working document of the Health Security Committee (HSC). Recommendations from the evaluation were considered to a greater extend and changes to the HSC document were addressed.
In 2008, ECDC took part in “Aeolus”, a large command-post exercise organised by the European Commission and involving stakeholders from public health and law enforcement and justice sectors. It was an opportunity to further test the PHEOP and internal procedures regarding assessment and response to threats of unknown origin. The improvement of setting facilities as well as of the internal and external communication and coordinating risk assessment during crisis among EU partners and the Member Stateswas recognised by observers and evaluators.
In 2009, ECDC organised two command post exercises involving mass gathering events.“Purple Octagon” scenario involved a meningitis outbreak and vaccine issues. Its main goal was to test the internal and external communications between ECDC’s Emergency Operations Centre and the equivalent structures of emergency rooms in participating countries and organisations through tools, communications systems and equipment.
In 2010, ECDC developed four simulation exercises. The first one was “Dr. Åsa” which focused on legionella outbreak and was designed in collaboration with SVT Swedish television to provide an opportunity to test and refine internal and external communication and serve also marketing purposes on promoting ECDC activities within a TV programme of the Swedish television named “Dr. Åsa”. Another internal exercise, “Wake up Call”, was designed to explore evacuation procedures within ECDC. In September ECDC participated in the organisation and performing of “CCAEX10”, a command-post exercise coordinated by the EU Presidency with the support of the Council of the EU Secretariat and also involving the European commission. The scenario of the exercise was based on a bioterrorist attack during a football championship in Poland. The last exercise in 2010 was named Black Trapezium - a command-post exercise which aimed to test, evaluate and refine the procedures related to the EPIS tool and how the tool services the Member Statesand contributes to the early detection, assessment, response and communication of public health events. The scenario was based on a salmonella outbreak and involved players from the ECDC food and water borne programme. (read
In 2011, ECDC organized training workshops for ECDC staff and Member Statesexperts. The training was based on the ECDC technical document “Handbook on Simulation Exercises in public health settings”.