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Early warning and response system for the prevention and control of communicable diseases

The early warning and response system is a component of the general network for the epidemiological surveillance and control of communicable diseases set up in the Community in 1998. This instrument provides that the system should be used only for Community-level ‘events’ which have the potential to become public health threats. It also lays down procedures for the operation of the system. The provisions of this instrument ensure personal data protection when contact tracing is undertaken on a European scale.

ACT

Commission Decision 2000/57/EC of 22 December 1999 on the early warning and response system for the prevention and control of communicable diseases under Decision No 2119/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council [Official Journal L 21 of 26.1.2000] [See amending acts].

SUMMARY

EVENTS TO BE REPORTED

The Community network’s early warning and response system (EWRS) shall be reserved for Community-level events, or indications for such events, which have the potential to become public health threats. Member States shall notify such events and then collect and exchange all necessary information on these events. The scope of the EWRS also includes the notification and coordination of countermeasures applied or envisaged to deal with events constituting a health threat. This coordination between Member States shall take place in liaison with the Commission.

Events caused by communicable diseases, and the health measures undertaken in response to them should be notified simultaneously to the EWRS and the World Health Organization (WHO) if they constitute an emergency with international impact by virtue of the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005).

The events to be reported within the early warning and response system are as follows:

  • outbreaks of communicable diseases extending to more than one Member State of the Community;
  • spatial or temporal clustering of cases of disease of a similar type, if pathogenic agents are a possible cause and there is a risk of propagation between Member States;
  • spatial or temporal clustering of cases of disease of a similar type outside the Community, if pathogenic agents are a possible cause and there is a risk of propagation to the Community;
  • the appearance or resurgence of a communicable disease or an infectious agent which may require coordinated Community action to contain it;
  • pathological events or facts creating a risk of a communicable disease and related measures notified to the WHO under the terms of the IHR 2005.

The competent authorities of each Member State shall collect and exchange all necessary information on these events and all measures taken or envisaged to deal with these events or the indications of such events, e.g. by using the national surveillance system or the epidemiological surveillance component of the Community network.

CONTACT TRACING

When measures are taken by the competent authorities of Member States to trace persons who have been exposed to a source of infectious agents and who have developed or are in danger of developing a communicable disease of Community relevance (‘contact tracing’), personal data may sometimes be exchanged within the EWRS. When exchanging personal data the Member States concerned by contact tracing must use a selective communication channel. This shall offer appropriate guarantees when communicating personal data within the EWRS and should ensure that only adequate, relevant and not excessive personal data is circulated within the EWRS. An indicative list of personal data has been established specifically for contact tracing. It includes information concerning:

  • travellers;
  • accompanying persons;
  • details of persons to be contacted in an emergency.

European legislation on personal data protection (Directive 96/45/EC and Regulation 45/2001/EC) prevails in this case.

PROCEDURES

The Decision provides for procedures for information, consultation and cooperation among Member States and in liaison with the Commission. These procedures are applied at three levels:

Activation level 1: information exchange

Action level 1 is put in place if the information collected at national level suggests that an event representing a health risk is likely. In this case, the Commission and the Member States concerned must ensure that information is exchanged rapidly. The information collected must be assessed as quickly as possible by the competent national health authorities.

Activation level 2: potential threat

In the event of a potential threat to public health, similar information, consultation and cooperation procedures shall be set up. Provision is made for phases of verification/evaluation of the information and deactivation of the system.

Activation level 3: definite threat

In the event of a definite threat, the health authorities concerned shall inform their counterparts in other Member States and the Commission without delay of the nature and scope of the potential threat and the measures they intend to take themselves or in association with other Member States.

Coordination of measures

The health authorities concerned shall without delay inform other Member States and the Commission of the progress and results of the measures taken. They may adopt further measures to be taken at Community level. The Commission shall support Member States in coordinating their efforts to cope with the public health threat and to ensure protection of the population.

Deactivation

The system shall be deactivated after the agreement of the Member States concerned, which shall inform other Member States and the Commission.

Information to the general public and concerned professions

If an event arises, Member States shall without delay provide suitable information material to concerned professionals and the general public and shall inform them of the measures adopted.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceTransposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Decision 2000/57/EC

23.12.1999

-

OJ L 21 of 26.1.2000

Amending act(s)Entry into forceTransposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Decision 351/2008/EC

1.5.2008

-

OJ L 117 of 1.5.2008

Decision 2009/547/EC

-

-

OJ L 181 of 14.7.2009

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament Operation of the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) of the Community Network for the epidemiological surveillance and control of communicable diseases during 2006 and 2007 (Decision 2000/57/EC) (Text with EEA relevance) [COM(2009) 228 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 20 March 2007 on the operation of the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) of the Community Network for the epidemiological surveillance and control of communicable diseases during years 2004 and 2005 (Decision 57/2000/EC) [COM(2007) 121 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Report from the Commission of 29 March 2005 on the operation of the early warning and response system of the Community Network for the epidemiological surveillance and control of communicable diseases (Decision 2000/57/EC) during 2002 and 2003 [COM(2005) 104 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Decision No 2119/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 September 1998 setting up a network for the epidemiological surveillance and control of communicable diseases in the Community.

 
Last updated: 10.11.2009

See also

  • Further information available on the European Commission’s "Public Health" website
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