The outbreak of the deadly respiratory disease known as SARS in Asia in 2003 showed how infectious diseases can spread across borders with alarming speed. In the United States, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention responds to such outbreaks but in Europe there is no continent wide response. Now, partly as a reaction to the SARS scare, the EU is setting up its Centre for Disease Control in Stockholm, Sweden.
The first director of the new institution will be the Hungarian expert, Zsuzsanna Jakab. She's currently a state secretary in the Hungarian Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and has more than a decade's experience with the World Health Organisation.
"The CDC in the United States has its own infrastructure, its own national public health institutions and laboratories, while in Europe, we do not plan to set up separate laboratories but want to work with the already existing infrastructure in the countries. I want to assure more coherence among the national public health institutions and the national laboratories by bringing them together and standardising their working methodology. But we do not want to establish our own separate infrastructure because they are there in the European countries and there is no reason to duplicate. Therefore, this will be a European model of a new centre."
How similar will the activity be to the one in the United States in Atlanta, Georgia?
"The activity will be quite similar with the difference that, during the first two years, the European centre will deal mainly with communicable diseases. There will be an evaluation in May 2007, after which the European Council and the European Parliament will jointly decide whether the mandate of this centre should be expanded towards non-communicable diseases and health determinants as is the case of the CDC in Atlanta.
"When I had my parliamentary hearing, there was a unanimous agreement among the most vocal members of the European Parliament that this centre should indeed not only deal with communicable diseases but also non-communicable disease and should therefore cover the whole complex area of public health."
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