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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2003: Volume 7/ Issue 26 Article 1
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 7, Issue 26, 26 June 2003

Citation style for this article: Control of SARS in the EU: measures undertaken by member states and accession countries. Euro Surveill. 2003;7(26):pii=2247. Available online:

Control of SARS in the EU: measures undertaken by member states and accession countries

Editorial team (, Eurosurveillance editorial office.

The European Commission (EC) has published a document summarising measures undertaken by member states and accession countries to control outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) (1). The report has been based on the results of a questionnaire agreed by the European Union (EU) expert group on SARS, set up under the Network for the Epidemiological Surveillance and Control of Communicable Diseases in the Community (the Network, instituted by Decision 2119/98/EC), to inform both the commission and the member states.

The report acknowledges the following achievements and problems:

  • European countries have generally adopted rapid and consistent measures on early detection of cases, implementation of isolation measures and guidance to health professionals and the public on the identification of possible SARS cases. This applies also to the guidelines for infection control and protection of hospital staff and health professionals.
  • A consistent approach to the guidance for health professionals has been implemented across most countries.
  • Information to the public has been rapidly distributed, using various media and channels, though the content varies throughout the Community.
  • Travel advice is becoming more consistent among the responding countries.
  • Measures to inform, collect traceability information, and screen arriving passengers are heterogeneous and lack consistency, possibly reflecting different intensity of passenger flows directly from affected countries, as well as different expectations of public opinion. There is a need for a preliminary EU evaluation of measures that have been undertaken.
  • Expert European laboratories have made major contributions to the global effort to identify the course of SARS, the SARS coronavirus, and to develop screening tests. However, national approaches to the laboratory diagnosis of SARS still differ among countries and the standardisation of protocols is still far from complete.
  • Several countries have now included quarantine measures in their national legal framework, and others are modifying their legislation.
  • Other measures adopted in some member states address research, humanitarian assistance, anti discrimination actions, mass gathering, and import/export of goods.

As the scientific knowledge on SARS advances, new specific diagnostic tests are being developed. Twenty three responding countries (14 member states, 7 accession countries, and 2 European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries) have instituted a centralised system for SARS testing with designated national reference laboratories, which are performing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for SARS coronavirus. Countries that do not rely on a centralised testing are Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, and Malta. Nine responding countries (Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (UK)) also perform serology tests for SARS antibodies. Seventeen responding countries (10 member states, 5 accession countries, and 2 EFTA countries) have developed national protocols for SARS diagnosis, with the goal of standardising the diagnostic procedures based on laboratory tests.

Countries that have not implemented a laboratory system on SARS diagnosis have developed links with other European reference laboratories for eventual confirmation of SARS diagnosis.

It was also noted in the report that the Commission could provide European added value in the networking of laboratories, standardisation of diagnostic methodologies, and scientific collaboration in research and development of microbiological diagnosis.

Twenty two countries (11 member states, 9 accession countries, 2 EFTA countries) have included SARS in the list of diseases with mandatory notification. Cyprus, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom do not have this provision. Nineteen countries (11 member states, 6 accession countries, 2 EFTA countries) have included quarantine measures in the national legal framework. Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have not introduced this regulation. However, some of these countries are reviewing their national legislation.

Community legislative actions in the area of quarantine measures, and other measures of public health importance that affect the free movement of persons may be considered in the revision of the International Health Regulations.

The Council of the European Union endorsed the immediate and future actions for SARS epidemic control in Europe on 6 May (2).

  1. European Commission SANCO - Public Health Directorate G4 Unit - Communicable, Rare and Emerging Diseases. Measures undertaken by member states and accession countries to control the outbreak of SARS 280503V3. 5 June 2003. (
  2. Eurosurveillance Weekly. Council of European Union adopt conclusions on SARS. Eurosurveillance Weekly 2003; 7: 030522 (

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