From BMJ-British Medical Journal
Is Europe prepared for an international disease outbreak? Networks of national surveillance organisations in Europe need to be improved to ensure effective control of disease outbreaks, concludes a study in this week's BMJ. These findings have important implications, not only for potential outbreaks such as salmonella or influenza, but also in the light of current concerns about future terrorist attacks involving biological weapons.
Researchers studied how these national networks responded in five international outbreaks. Although the networking approach was successful, they identified critical weaknesses in detection, coordination, funding and reporting. There were delays in informing other countries about important events, a lack of clarity over how outbreaks that involved several countries should be investigated, and how the investigation should be resourced.
Previous research has shown weaknesses in national surveillance systems. In one member state the system failed to ascertain 60% of community acquired legionnaires' disease and it is likely that the coverage achieved in other surveillance systems is similar or lower, say the authors. There is a clear requirement for enhancement of many national surveillance systems.
Increasing globalisation is likely to lead to further international outbreaks, add the authors. Responding effectively to these requires coordination of national surveillance and response systems within the European Union and support for enhanced surveillance and control activities in developing countries, they conclude.
Communicable disease outbreaks involving more than one country: systems approach to evaluating the response BMJ Volume 323, pp 861-3
Editorial: Surveillance for infectious diseases in the European Union BMJ Volume 323, pp 818-9