E.coli O157 & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome

Improvement in EUs ability to cope with cross-border health threats

18th October 2012

The European Public Health Committee has amended a draft law that should improve the EU’s ability to cope with health threats such as the 2011 E.coli outbreak.

The legislative proposal will enable an extension of the current coordination mechanism for transmissible disease to all biological, chemical or environmental health threats. An existing EU structure, the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS), set up in 1998 for communicable diseases, would be strengthened and its scope extended to all cross-border threats to health, including human zoonotic infections (transmitted from animals to humans).

The aim of the EWRS is to help to identify the nature of the threat during a health crisis. It monitors how fast and how wide a disease are spreading.

Under existing legislation, the EU needs to wait for the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare an international emergency across continents. The new law would introduce the possibility of recognising a European "health emergency" to accelerate the provision of medication needed to combat the crisis.

The draft legislation will be put to a plenary vote in November in Strasbourg.

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