October 20, 2020


News from the European Union

Swine flu – a new pandemic from China?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that the new influenza virus, G4 EA H1N1 (swine flu), discovered in China, has the characteristics needed to cause a pandemic. Swedish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Peter Lundgren requested answers from the European Commission about this new virus.

Swine influenza (also known as swine flu or pig flu) is a respiratory disease that occurs in pigs that is caused by the Influenza A virus. The virus has become more infectious to humans and needs to be watched closely in case it becomes a potential “pandemic virus,” according to the authors, who include scientists at Chinese universities and China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

On 01 July 2020, Swedish MEP Peter Lundgren of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) tabled a parliamentary question to the European Commission asking two pointed questions. In the first question, the MEP asked “how does the Commission view the risk of another pandemic breaking out soon?” which he followed with “what safeguards does the Commission believe that the EU and its Member States should take to mitigate any upcoming pandemic?”

On 03 September 2020, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, on behalf of the European Commission reported that “on 13 July 2020, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published a Threat Assessment Brief about Eurasian avian-like A (H1N1) swine influenza viruses on the basis of a Chinese study, which identified a new swine-origin influenza virus, namely the G4 EA A (H1N1) virus”.

Commissioner Kyriakides clearly stated that “the new virus is able to transmit to humans, and ECDC raises concerns about its potential for human-to-human transmission and subsequent pandemic spread, but so far, no human-to-human transmission has been reported”.

Commissioner Kyriakides further clarified that “decision 1082/2013/EU on serious cross-border threats to health provides for the coordination of preparedness at EU level to develop, strengthen and maintain capacities for the monitoring, early warning and assessment of, and response to serious cross-border threats to health” and that “under Article 4, Member States must regularly provide the Commission with detailed updates about their national preparedness and response planning, for the discussion of the Health Security Committee”.

“Via the third EU Health Programme, the Commission provides funding for Member States’ Joint Actions on preparedness, and regularly organises the testing of Member States’ preparedness plans” and that “finally, ECDC provides scientific and technical assistance within preparedness and response”, reassured the Commissioner.

In closing, Commissioner Kyriakides declared that “the next Health Programme, proposed by the Commission on 27 May 2020, aims at providing for an even stronger framework for a common European response to cross-border health threats in the future”.

Photo Credit : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China.svg

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