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European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

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European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Communicable diseases can present a serious public health threat, all the more so because they can spread throughout the globe in a very short time. In order to react effectively and promptly in the event of epidemics it is necessary to strengthen the Union's capacity to address disease outbreaks. This is why the European authorities have decided to create a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.


Regulation (EC) No 851/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 establishing a European centre for disease prevention and control.


The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) constitutes a recent example of the speed with which new diseases can emerge and spread rapidly. In a number of weeks SARS spread from southern China to Canada, Europe and Asia. With a view to containing outbreaks of infectious diseases and preventing their spread as soon as possible, it is therefore essential to create a mechanism which makes it possible to react rapidly and take effective action.

The European Union (EU) already has a network for the epidemiological surveillance and monitoring of communicable diseases within the Community. However this network, which since 1991 has been managed by the Commission and is based on cooperation between the Member States, is quite simply not capable of effectively protecting European citizens against the threats posed by communicable diseases, including the threat of the voluntary dissemination of infectious agents (" bioterrorism "). Hence it is essential to create a European centre in order to improve the coherence and effectiveness of Community action.


The mission of the European centre for disease prevention and control is to identify, assess and communicate current and emerging threats to human health posed by communicable diseases.

In the framework of its mission, the Centre:

  • searches for, collects, collates, evaluates and disseminates relevant scientific and technical data;
  • provides scientific opinions and scientific and technical assistance including training;
  • provides information to the Commission, the Member States, Community agencies and international organisations active within the field of public health;
  • coordinates the European networking of bodies operating in the fields within the Centre's mission and manages dedicated surveillance networks;
  • exchanges information, expertise and best practices and facilitates the development and implementation of joint actions.


The main tasks of the Centre are epidemiological surveillance, the early warning and response system, scientific opinions, technical assistance to Member States and third countries, as well as measures to support and develop preparedness in the event of new health threats.

Epidemiological surveillance and creation of laboratory networks

The Centre is responsible for the development of epidemiological surveillance at Community level. It will take over the operational duties of the European network on communicable diseases. The Centre supports the networking activities of the competent bodies recognised by the Member States in connection with the operation of the dedicated surveillance networks. In this connection it harmonises the surveillance methods and monitors and evaluates the surveillance activities of the dedicated laboratory networks in order to ensure optimal cooperation. By encouraging cooperation between the dedicated laboratories the Centre fosters the development of sufficient capacity within the Community for the diagnosis, detection, identification and characterisation of infectious agents which may threaten public health.

Scientific opinions

The Centre provides independent scientific opinions, expert advice, data and information. To this end, the Centre seeks to make use of the best expertise available. If, in connection with a particular problem, independent scientific expertise is not available from existing dedicated surveillance networks, the Centre may set up independent ad hoc scientific panels.

The Centre issues a scientific opinion at the request of the Commission, the European Parliament or a Member State. It may also issue an opinion on its own initiative.

Early warning and response system

The Centre supports the Commission by operating the early warning and response system (EWRS) and by ensuring with the Member States the capacity to respond in a coordinated manner. In the event of a warning, the responsibility for action remains with the Member States and the Commission, but the technical operation of the EWRS will be ensured by the Centre and its networks. Where necessary, the Centre coordinates its action with that of other European agencies, such as the European Food Safety Authority and the European Medicines Agency.

Scientific and technical assistance and training

The Centre may be requested by the Commission, the Member States, third countries and international organisations, in particular the World Health Organisation, to provide scientific or technical assistance in any field within its mission. This assistance may include aiding the Commission and Member States to develop technical guidelines on good practice and on protective measures to be taken in response to human health threats, providing expert assistance and mobilising and coordinating investigation teams.

The Centre supports and coordinates training programmes in order to assist Member States and the Commission to have sufficient numbers of trained specialists, in particular in epidemiological surveillance and field investigations.

Identification of emerging health threats

In cooperation with the Member States, the Centre establishes procedures for systematically searching for, collecting, collating and analysing information with a view to the identification of emerging health threats. Besides, the Centre forwards to the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission an annual evaluation of current and emerging health threats. It also informs the Commission and Member States as soon as possible about findings which require their immediate attention.

Communications on the activities of the Centre

The Centre ensures that the public are rapidly given objective, reliable and easily accessible information with regard to its activities and the results of its work. To this end, it makes available information for the general public, notably through a dedicated website.


The Centre's structures are based on the models of other independent European agencies. The Centre comprises:

  • a management board, composed of one member designated by each Member State, two members designated by the European Parliament and three members representing and appointed by the Commission. It ensures that the Centre carries out its mission and tasks by adopting its programme of work and financial rules;
  • a director, assisted by a small core staff. The director is chiefly responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Centre and the drawing up and implementation of its work programme;
  • an advisory forum composed of representatives of the competent national authorities. The forum constitutes a mechanism for an exchange of information on health threats and the pooling of knowledge.


The Centre has been operational since May 2005. It consists of approximately 100 staff and has a budget of EUR 48 million for the first three years of its activity.

The Centre is based in the city of Stockhom (Sweden).



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 851/2004



Official Journal L 142 of 30.4.2004

See also

Last updated: 17.05.2011