Celebrating 25 years of public health impact


Anniversary collection 

Eurosurveillance, 1996 to 2021: 25 years of public health impact

Over the past 25 years, Eurosurveillance has served the public health and communicable disease communities in Europe and beyond by publishing authoritative, sound evidence for immediate and long-term public health action. To mark the occasion, we have compiled an anniversary collection of 25 articles published since the journal’s inception: Eurosurveillance, 1996 to 2021: 25 years of public health impact, as well as a Note from the editors announcing its launch. Follow along over the year as we take a closer look at the featured articles, providing further context and information about their impact on public health practice and policy.


Food-borne outbreak investigations

Driving international collaboration and real-time communication

According to estimates from the World Health Organization, contaminated food—whether caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals—leads to illnesses in more than 600 million people every year, causing 420,000 deaths. 

Over the past 25 years, Eurosurveillance has highlighted and facilitated necessary international collaboration by supporting timely communication surrounding food-borne disease outbreaks. Our anniversary collection, Eurosurveillance, 2006–2021: 25 years of public health impact, includes a selection of articles that demonstrate the journal’s impact on food safety as an important area of public health.

In 1997, the journal published a ‘
Preliminary report of an international outbreak of Salmonella anatum infection linked to an infant formula milk’ that, according to Noel Gill of the UK Health Security Agency and on of the former editors of Eurosurveillance weekly, demonstrated collaboration between national surveillance institutions based on the knowledge that "the expansion of distribution networks for foodstuffs required real-time international communications between public health practitioners to most effectively investigate particular foodborne disease outbreaks.” 

Eurosurveillance associate editors Henriette de Valk and Karl Kristinsson drew our attention to the rapid communication 'Large and ongoing outbreak of haemolytic uraemic syndrome, Germany, May 2011' included in the anniversary collection. According to de Valk the publication "prompted immediate modifications and strengthening of shiga toxin-producing Eschericha coli and haemolytic uraemic syndrome surveillance in France. It also enabled the French team to make the link with the outbreak in Germany, and contribute to the final identification of the exact type of sprouts at the origin of these outbreaks." On the French investigation: ‘Outbreak of haemolytic uraemic syndrome and bloody diarrhoea due to Escherichia coli O104:H4, south-west France, June 2011’. Both noted that the initial German rapid communication, published in May 2011, prompted similar improvements to surveillance activities in several countries, with de Valk adding that “several further publications—many of which were published in Eurosurveillance—of investigations and findings in other, mostly European countries, followed and all contributed to the rapid sharing of new information and knowledge on this poorly known pathogen.”

Two other papers are included in the collection focused on food-borne outbreak investigations. One of them from 2007, ‘An outbreak of multi-resistant Shigella sonnei in Australia: possible link to the outbreak of shigellosis in Denmark associated with imported baby corn from Thailand’, followed an outbreak investigation reported in Eurosurveillance which raised awareness among Australian authorities about a possible common source of the two outbreaks at a time when real-time outbreak communication was still somewhat rare. For Franz Allerberger from the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, the article ‘Listeriosis outbreak caused by acid curd cheese ‘Quargel’, Austria and Germany 2009’, highlighted the value of routine molecular typing of Listeria isolates and the potential of cross-border cooperation to help identify chains of infections. The authors concluded that the listeriosis outbreak probably would not have been detected without molecular typing, which became widely accepted among Austrian public health authorities afterwards.

Visit our anniversary collection to read these articles and more.


European Union surveillance networks

Building bridges: Legionnaires’ disease surveillance

Particularly in its early days, Eurosurveillance served as an outlet and communication platform for dedicated European Union surveillance networks. One example from the journal’s 25th anniversary collection is an article published in 1997 that described travel-associated legionellosis among European tourists in Spain.

In this paper, Truyols and Navarro found that differences in rates of legionellosis among tourists in Spain that had travelled from different European countries was remarkable, and suggested “an information bias, due to differences in national surveillance systems or degrees of participation in the European system.” 

At the time, Legionnaires’ disease surveillance was coordinated by the European Working Group for Legionella Infections (EWGLI), and the authors argued that stricter reporting criteria needed to be implemented. In the same issue, the EWGLI coordinating centre commented on the paper’s findings, including that “the publication of this paper is timely and will encourage debate of these issues”, illustrating how articles published in Eurosurveillance were picked up by colleagues and served as evidence for discussion in the relevant networks.

Today, the European Legionnaires’ disease Surveillance Network (ELDSNet) carries out surveillance of Legionnaires' disease in Europe and also issues operating procedures specifically relating to travel-associated Legionnaires’ disease. ELDSNet, like other disease-related surveillance networks in Europe, is coordinated by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

We highlight this example of the journal’s impact on Legionnaires’ disease surveillance on the occasion of the World Water Week, taking place from 23 to 27 August 2021, and encourage you to read the article and others from our anniversary collection.

Presenting diagnostic developments

Learning from mosquito-borne diseases

The best protection against mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile or dengue virus infection: preventing mosquito bites. Humans mostly get West Nile virus (WNV) infections following mosquito bites but infections are also possible via blood transfusions, transplantation of tissues, cells or organs from an infected and viraemic donor. In Europe, the transmission season for WNV infections generally lasts from June to November. In addition to individual protective measures against mosquito bites, authorities responsible for blood safety need to be able to assess potential transmission risks.

According to Tamás Bakonyi, Head of the ECDC Disease Programme on Emerging, Food- and Vector-Borne Diseases, one paper published in Eurosurveillance in 2017 highlighted an “important diagnostic development with public health consequences”. The article, featured in the anniversary collection Eurosurveillance, 2006–2021: 25 years of public health impact, described how the nucleic acid test (NAT) used for blood donation screening for West Nile virus (WNV) can also detect Usutu virus (USUV) infection.

The article, ‘Blood donor screening for West Nile virus (WNV) revealed acute Usutu virus (USUV) infection, Germany, September 2016’, by Cadar et al., reported the first detection of an acute USUV infection in a blood donor from Germany using a cross-reactive WNV screening test and further successful sequencing of a large portion of the genome using deep-sequencing technology. This publication, along with others, suggested that USUV infections might have previously been misdiagnosed as WNV, due to tests not distinguishing between these two viruses.

The timely publication of the article, right before the European WNV and USUV transmission season, provided scientific background that enabled countries such as Austria, Germany and Hungary to validate NAT results with virus-specific RT-PCR tests. As Bakonyi states, “this can avoid blood donation restrictions based on false positive results (for WNV) and can also help to better estimate and assess the frequency and the risk of (asymptomatic) human USUV infections”.

During the current European transmission season for mosquito-borne diseases, take a closer look at our anniversary collection which includes this article as well as others on possible local transmission of chikungunya virus in Italy and the first autochthonous dengue virus infection in metropolitan France (2010) and in 2013.

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