The REACT project
Response to Emerging infectious disease: Assessment and development of Core capacities and Tools
In the past the EU coordinated response to communicable diseases has experienced major challenges. Differences in public health preparedness and response have repeatedly been seen within the EU, which are difficult to explain to the EU citizens and result in delayed public health interventions. The project focused on areas of generic response which are crucial for the international cooperation on prevention of international spread of infectious diseases, and where the necessity of an European effort to develop a common basis for action have been identified.
The project assessed existing and generated new evidence. In the frame of the project tools and best practices were established, and in part core capacities for four specified areas were defined which are likely to be applicable and acceptable throughout the EU: enhanced surveillance during international mass gathering events; surveillance of infectious diseases in health care workers; implementation of International Health Regulations: Reporting from local to intermediate/national level; international contact tracing after exposure to infectious disease.
The more persons, goods and media information are moving within Europe the greater is the need for improved and coordinated response to infectious diseases within the European Union. Different responses to similar health threats in the different EU-countries are likely to negatively affect the acceptance of the general public and the compliance by health professionals. One of the major reasons for the differences is that the evidence does not yet exist or has not yet been critically assessed.
Before REACT, there were no procedures available to assist individual countries to decide what core capacities are needed for the implementation of enhanced surveillance of infectious diseases during a specific mass gathering event.
Only a few reports on validated surveillance systems for health care workers (HCWs) focussing on infectious diseases that are likely to cause outbreaks had been published. Close surveillance of HCWs is an important source of information on emerging pathogens of serious public health impact.
Events which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern have to be notified to WHO. The decision instrument in annex 2 of the International Health Regulation (IHR) is a guidance to assess events. It is up to the Member States to make systems for detecting and reporting to the national IHR focal points events that needs to be assessed for IHR notification.
Little evidence is available on risk of transmission of infectious diseases in conveyances other than aircrafts, consequently, guidance on when and to what extent contact tracing of passengers should be initiated was not existent.
The general objective of the project was to provide evidence and tools towards a common European standard for the response to emerging public health threats which are likely to be applicable and acceptable throughout the EU for responding rapidly and coordinated to public health threats in Europe. The project addressed specific areas where harmonized best practices and tools are not in place, but where the need for harmonization on EU-level has been identified. These areas are crucial for international cooperation on prevention of international spread of infectious diseases.
The project was organised in work packages. Besides the work packages for the project management and evaluation, four subject-specific work packages had been established:
- Work package 4: "Enhanced surveillance during international mass gatherings"
- Work package 5: "Surveillance of infectious disease outbreaks among Health Care Workers"
- Work package 6: "Tools for local implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR)"
- Work package 7: "International contact tracing after exposure to infectious diseases"