Press Release

Publication of Irish Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Assessment Report

The Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive today (26th November 2007) published a report on influenza pandemic preparedness in Ireland. This report was prepared following a thorough assessment undertaken by a specialist team from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The assessment visit took place between February 28th and March 1st 2007.

The assessment which is being undertaken in all European Union countries covered the key areas that give an indication of how Ireland is prepared to deal with influenza and pandemic influenza should it occur. It covers the following

•Seasonal influenza
•Avian influenza
•Pandemic influenza
•Planning and coordination
•Situation monitoring and assessment
•Prevention and reduction of transmission
•Health system response
•Communication

The assessment found that Ireland has made significant progress in preparing for the next flu pandemic:

•Seasonal influenza surveillance is strong and there is good uptake of vaccine in the over 65s at over 60%
•Preparedness for outbreaks of avian influenza is proactive and impressive, with excellent cooperation between the Agriculture and Health Departments and between public health and animal health specialists
•Pandemic preparedness is well advanced
•the National Pandemic Influenza Plan, 2007 which was launched in January 2007 covers virtually all of the essential planning elements laid out by the European Union and the World Health Organisation
•the Pandemic Influenza Expert Group has provided comprehensive and sound advice
•the quantity of antivirals in stock is enough to treat almost 2 million people. This compares very favourably with other countries
•one of the few credible hospital plans seen at European level was presented to the team
•the communication plan is strong and more advanced than many other countries
•Business Continuity Planning Advice published by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Enterprise Agencies is an excellent contribution to the wider planning agenda.

The report also highlights the need to continue work on pandemic planning over the next two to three years focussing on a whole of Government approach and detailed planning at the local level.

Speaking at the publication of the report, the ECDC team leader, Professor Angus Nicoll said:

“Our expert team found that the authorities in Ireland have been working very hard to improve preparedness. They have made great progress and have made some very valuable contributions that will benefit the rest of the EU, notably the work on business continuity planning and hospital preparedness. At the same time, like all other countries, we found areas where Ireland still has work to do.”

The Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive are committed to working through the agreed action list contained in the report. This work has continued during this year and will continue to be a priority in the coming years.

Pandemic planning requires a co-ordinated response from Government Departments and from all sectors of society. The Department of Health and Children is working to drive the agenda at the inter-Departmental level having regard to advice from the World Health Organisation and ECDC and examples of best practice from other countries.

Influenza Pandemic Preparedness in Ireland, Joint Assessment Report, 2007 is available on www.health.gov.ie and www.hse.ie