Many infectious diseases have been eradicated in Europe but new infections and drug resistant microbes pose a new threat, a new EU report presented Thursday in Stockholm showed. "The public health systems in Europe are doing a good job and EU citizens are well protected but there is no room for complacency," Zsuzsanna Jakab, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said at a press conference.
According to the ECDC report, diseases that can be prevented with vaccines, such as polio and measles, have more or less been wiped out, with no cases of polio in the EU since 1992. However, the increasing spread of HIV, the emergence of new diseases such as variant-CJD (the human form of mad cow disease) and the respiratory illness SARS, the threat of influensa and drug resistant strains of tuberculosis put the health of EU citizens at risk.
And rising rates of so-called "healthcare-associated infections" caused by drug resistant microbes -- infections caught in hospital that are resistant to antibiotics, such as the bacteria MRSA -- are "possibly the biggest infectious disease challenge facing the EU," the ECDC said.
According to the report around three million people in the EU catch a healthcare-associated infection every year, approximately 50,000 die as a result. "Hospital related infections are a concern as people increasingly seek care in other countries," John Ryan, head of the Health Threats Unit at the European Commission, said.
In the first report on the state of infectious diseases in the EU the ECDC analysed the 49 most important infectious diseases in 28 European countries, including 25 EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. The ECDC is an EU agency based in Stockholm whose aim is to strengthen Europe's defenses against infectious diseases.