Ebola, unwanted guest

Europe in a state of alarm. States mobilize for prevention. EU's extended hands to Countries hit by the epidemics

It was detected in Spain at the beginning of August in the body of missionary who didn’t make it. Since then other 9 people, three of whom have died, have been infected in Norway, England, Spain, Germany. Ebola, unwanted guest of the Schegen area, infiltrated across Europe after having infected almost 9 thousand people in Africa, half of whom in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria have died. Preliminary alarms in Brussels. Member States are “responsible” for healthcare, according to European institutions, while “the role of the Commission is to encourage cooperation and boost the understanding of the issues at stake”, highlights a release issued by Brussels on October 15. In the meantime, however, € 180 million have been allocated for aid to the affected countries. The Ebola emergency is now on the agenda of all recent summit meetings of the EU, of the conference call between Barack Obama and the prime ministers of Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom on October 15 and of the upcoming summit of the heads of State and Government of EU 28 to be held on 23-24 October. However, special measures have not emerged from the informal summit of Ministers of Health, held on October 16. The convened parties decided that passengers departing from African countries hit by the disease will be screened and that cooperation between Member States to exchange information on the virus, prevention and treatment will be strengthened. The Commission will convene a workshop on 4 November to exchange best practice in infection control in healthcare settings. EU mobilization. The EU has compiled a list of interventions needed in African countries to curb the epidemics, which includes transport, coordination on aids delivery, equipment, availability of expert medical staff in support of the local population. On the humanitarian front the European Union refers to the bodies already actively engaged: WHO, Doctors Without Borders and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC). For the Commission a priority need is to “maintain links between the countries concerned and the outside world” for “entry and the free movement of health workers” and “to keep the diplomatic missions of the EU operational” in those same States. Unilateral decisions in the suspension of services to the affected areas hinder the situation of emergency, as they complicate patients’ control and isolation, and represent a constraint in the supply of medical equipment and materials for the protection of healthcare workers involved in the treatment of the infected population, Brussels pointed out. The European Community has also sent researchers and mobile laboratories to facilitate early diagnosis, while the EU Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) and the civil protection mechanism will provide updates on the emergency and the resources made available by the Member States. A safety network. There is great concern for European citizens working in the countries hit by the disease, from healthcare staff to volunteers. For this reason, “reliable, rapid evacuation systems” are of crucial importance, while the decision of which measures to apply “to guard one’s borders against the Ebola virus disease remains exclusively within the remit of the sovereign states”, reiterated Health Commissioner Tonio Borg on October 16. However, risks of “secondary contraction of Ebola”, that caused the death of a Spanish nurse who took care of an Ebola patient, are low. Moreover, Europe is taking the necessary measures in case of new episodes of Ebola inside its borders. The European Health Security Committee (HSC), has activated networks for secure hospital facilities, activated networks for high security laboratories to ensure all Member States can access such laboratories to diagnose the virus, endorsed information for travellers and for the press; undertaken work on procedures for airports and health authorities on handling possible cases of Ebola identified during a flight. “In the spirit of solidarity”. According to figures released by the Commission “most Member States seem to be well prepared”, while there are potential challenges for some Member States in access to treatment facilities, transport of patients, availability of laboratories, expertise and resources. “In the spirit of solidarity, the HSC is coordinating the sharing of certain key resources which Member States have offered to put at the disposal of other countries if required”, the Commission said. However, it’s “highly unlikely” that Ebola will reach the same proportions in Europe as in West Africa, especially since the EU has very high standards of healthcare and preventive care. The possibility of a vaccine. “There is currently no authorised or proven treatment for Ebola” the Commission pointed out. However, stated the Commission, the WHO, is urgently working to identify “potential viable candidate treatments”. On the research front, the Commission intends to quickly mobilise funds from Horizon 2020 via an emergency procedure to support clinical trials on candidate vaccines and therapies.

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