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IP/09/1234

Brussels, 13 August 2009

I nfluenza A (H1N1) 2009: EU Health Security Committee agrees statements on school closures and travel advice

The European Union Health Security Committee and the Early Warning and Response authorities (HSC/EWRS) unanimously adopted for the first time two policy statements proposed by the European Commission on public health measures for pandemic influenza A (H1N1) 2009. The statements set out a coordinated European approach on what kind of school closures may be most appropriate to protect public health, and how to balance freedom of movement and public health protection for travellers with flu symptoms. The Commission proposed the statements for adoption by the HSC/EWRS as part of the broader strategic planning and preparedness for coordinated efforts in Europe on pandemic influenza A (H1N1) 2009. The two statements will provide a basis for implementing shared public health measures among Member States and the European Commission to ensure an efficient coordinated response at the EU level in the current pandemic situation. The statements may be revised taking into account developments in the situation.

European Commissioner for Health Androulla Vassiliou said: "It is important that Member States and the Commission continue to coordinate their approaches and share information on how to address the public health challenges posed by the pandemic. The two public health statements adopted today provide good examples of how Europe needs to balance public health protection and other key public interests during the current pandemic."

Statement on school closures

The EU Health Security Committee states that Member States do not presently see the need to enact pre-emptive mass school closures. However, the Member States recommend at present the approach to locally close schools reactively upon infection being found among students as beneficial to delay the transmission of the virus. The benefit of such an approach clearly depends on timely action. Furthermore, to ensure that school closures are efficient, they should be accompanied by other measures, in particular to ensure that alternative gatherings of children do not happen.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has produced scientific advice on school closures which can be found at:

http://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/health_content/phdev/090720_ph.aspx

Statement on symptomatic individuals travelling

The statement by the EU Health Security Committee provides a set of options on what to do in a situation where a traveller falls ill before or during travel. As an increasing number of individuals may develop symptoms just before planned travel or while travelling, the EU Member States may have to face the need to handle and manage cases among travellers. In this context, the overriding public health recommendation to symptomatic individuals remains to delay travel and stay at home. However, this public health recommendation in the pandemic situation should not lead to restriction of movement at the EU borders and travel restrictions between EU Member States.

For more information:

The statements of the EU Health Security Committee and of the Early Warning and Response authorities in Member States can be found at the website of the DG Health and Consumers:

http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_threats/com/Influenza/novelflu_en.htm

MEMO/09/362 and MEMO/09/363


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