Press Release

Minister Micheál Martin holds Informal Dinner for EU Health Ministers to discuss Avian Influenza

Minister Micheál Martin held an Informal Dinner for EU Health Ministers on Thursday evening, 12 February, to discuss the matter of Avian Influenza and issues regarding mutual co-operation in Europe to combat this disease.

At the meeting the Health Ministers agreed to keep each other informed in advance of taking any further control measures and that they should endeavour to coordinate measures to protect public health to the greatest extent possible across the European Union.

Member States and the Commission will engage with the pharmaceutical industry to consider the preparation of protocols in relation to the manufacture, availability and distribution of vaccines and anti-vials, as part of pandemic planning preparedness.

Each state will review their national pandemic preparedness plans over the coming weeks and Health Ministers have also asked the Commission to bring forward its EU Pandemic Preparedness Plan as a matter of urgency.

The closest possible cooperation with the World Health Organisation and other relevant international bodies will be maintained.

European Union Health Ministers will facilitate technical assistance within the EU; develop potential partnerships and information exchange among Member States and Accession Countries.

The recent agreement in the European Parliament on the establishment of the European Centre for Disease Control was welcomed. Health Ministers agreed on the desirability of regular meetings at a high level of the Network Committee and the Health Security Committee, to address issues that arise in this context, while waiting for the European Centre for Disease Control to come into operation. It was noted that the Commission, which chairs this Committee, agreed with the proposal.

Health Ministers are to maintain ongoing synergy and contact with their Government colleagues in the animal health and other relevant sectors in relation to surveillance initiatives and sharing of information to facilitate reporting and control measures in the animal population that will in turn reduce the public health risk. The Commission will examine the need for an integrated zoonosis synergy.

Common protocols will be established for communication of identified cases as part of national surveillance systems.

Health Ministers agreed on the need for transparency and openness in dealing with this challenge as they move forward together and agreed on the need for co-ordinated research in this area.

It was agreed on the need for the provision of balanced information to the public and press to avoid undue alarm, while maintaining a strong position of alertness.

The Presidency, working together with the Commission, World Health Organisation and other Member States, will continue to closely monitor developments as regards the spread of Avian Flu.

As we have seen so often in the recent past, communicable diseases do not respect national frontiers and therefore it was agreed that Health Ministers across Europe will continue to exchange information and to coordinate their responses to this public health challenge.