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Pandemic (H1N1) 2009: Commission hosts Global Health Security conference for G7 countries and Mexico

European Commission - IP/09/1306   11/09/2009

Other available languages: FR DE EL

IP/09/1306

Brussels, 11 September 2009

Pandemic (H1N1) 2009: Commission hosts Global Health Security conference for G7 countries and Mexico

Health ministers from the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US), Mexico and the World Health Organisation meet today in Brussels for a special ministerial meeting of the Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI) hosted by the European Commission. The meeting will focus on effective public health measures to respond to the influenza A (H1N1) virus. The timing of this meeting is crucial with respect to the potential for a more virulent wave of the virus in the months ahead. A common statement (or communiqué) setting out the common approaches adopted by the G7 countries plus Mexico and next steps of joint work on pandemic (H1N1) 2009 will be adopted at the meeting followed by a press conference.

Health Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou who is chairing the meeting said: " Since the start of the A H1N1 outbreak, the European Commission has stressed the crucial importance of exchanging information and coordinating measures at international level. On this special occasion, in collaboration with our GHSI partners, we will share and develop common approaches towards mitigating the public health and socio-economic impact of the pandemic. We will also call for global solidarity in supporting countries around the world to tackle the pandemic.

Exceptionally, the Swedish and the Spanish Ministers for Health will participate in this extraordinary ministerial meeting as part of the EC Delegation (observers).

Tackling the Pandemic (H1N1) 2009

The main objective to tackling the pandemic is to limit the spread of infection, to minimize the casualties and to maintain essential services. Effective public health measures are key to limit the negative effects of the pandemic on public health and society in general. The main topics for discussion will be the need for a carefully planned vaccination strategy, the challenges to healthcare systems and the protection of vulnerable populations. The GHSI members are also committed to supporting third countries to respond to the pandemic.

Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI)

The GHSI was first established in 2001 in response to the September 11 terrorist events and the subsequent release of anthrax letters in the United States. Global health security covers a wide range of issues such as generic preparedness and response to public health crises, pandemic influenza as well as threats caused by chemical, radio-nuclear and bioterrorism agents (by accidental or deliberate release). During the current A H1N1 pandemic, the GHSI network has proven to be an effective mechanism for rapid information sharing.

Each year in preparation for the ministerial level debates, the GHSI collaboration brings together experts and senior officials from the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US) + Mexico and officials from the European Commission and the WHO. The permanent secretariat of the GHSI is in Canada which steers the annual work programme of the GHSI. The next annual ministerial meeting will be hosted by the United Kingdom on 4 December 2009 in London.

Background on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009

On 11 June 2009, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a pandemic caused by the novel influenza A(H1N1) virus, now known as ‘Pandemic (H1N1) 2009’. This virus contains genes from pig, bird and human influenza viruses, in a combination which has not been observed before.

The A H1N1 virus was first identified in Mexico and spread quickly to North America and Europe. The virus is now widespread in all continents. As predicted, in the last few months, the virus has spread quickly in the Southern hemisphere due to it being their influenza season. So far, the A H1N1 virus displays similar symptoms to that of seasonal flu. However, in some risk groups it can be more severe leading to hospitalisations and, inevitably to deaths. These risk groups are not the same as for seasonal flu. The A H1N1 risk groups are pregnant women, young children and people with underlying chronic diseases. The seasonal flu is more severe in elderly population as well as in people with underlying chromic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, asthma).

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, established in 2005, is at the centre of surveillance efforts and provides the EU with expertise and scientific advice on tackling the pandemic. The European Commission continues to lead coordination efforts and facilitates regular contacts within the EU and with our global and international partners. The latest figures on the epidemiological situation in the EU and outside EU is updated regularly and posted on the ECDC website.

More information

The Communiqué can be found on the Commission's website on influenza A (H1N1)

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

European Centre forDisease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/healthtopics/Pages/Influenza_A(H1N1)_Outbreak.aspx

More information on the GHSI can be found at:

http://www.ghsi.ca/english/index.asp


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