First influenza virus detections in Europe: 2004-2005 season,
European Influenza Surveillance Scheme
Active surveillance of influenza in Europe by the European
Influenza Surveillance Scheme (EISS, http://www.eiss.org
started in week 40 of 2004 (27 September - 3 October). EISS will present data
on a weekly basis for 22 countries (19 European Union member states, plus
Norway, Romania and Switzerland) during the 2004-2005 season. The current
level of influenza activity is low, with only sporadic cases of laboratory
confirmed influenza. One of the laboratory confirmed cases of influenza resembled
viruses seen recently in the southern hemisphere.
Based on data reported so far, the current level of influenza activity in
Europe is low (at baseline levels) and there are only sporadic cases of
laboratory confirmed influenza.
Among respiratory specimens reported to EISS between week 36 and week 40
of 2004 (n=590; EISS database query made on 8 October 2004 at 09:05a.m.),
there were four laboratory confirmed cases of influenza A. The cases were
detected in Norway (week 36; H3N2), England (week 39; untyped), Ireland
(week 40; untyped) and the Czech Republic (week 40; untyped). There was
also a report (in the comment section of the EISS database) of two 'imported'
cases of influenza A(H3) in France in week 39, in patients returning from
The Norwegian isolate has been characterised, both antigenically and genetically,
and was found to be an A/Wellington/1/2004(H3N2)-like virus. This strain
was recently recommended for the 2005 southern hemisphere vaccine and is
antigenically distinguishable from the A/Fujian/411/2002(H3N2)-like virus
. There was no indication that the patient, an adult woman presenting
with fever, had recently travelled abroad.
Response to the H5N1 avian influenza in South East and East Asia
In response to the outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza in birds in South East
and East Asia , the deaths and probable transmission among humans associated
with this subtype [2,3], there has been preparation for the possible spread
of influenza A(H5N1) in Europe. The first initiative was the exchange of
polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocols between the 32 laboratories participating
in the Community Network of Reference Laboratories for Human Influenza in
Europe , and making available positive controls to validate the protocols,
so that all laboratories could test for this subtype. As of the end of 2003,
19 of 26 laboratories that responded to a questionnaire were able to detect
the A(H5) virus, and 21 laboratories reported that they had the BSL-3 laboratory
facilities  required by World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines to
do more extensive analysis . We have also modified the EISS database,
so that information on this virus can be collected and communicated quickly
via the EISS website and Weekly Electronic Bulletin if this subtype is detected
in Europe. Finally, the EISS team are helping the European Commission’s
Directorate-General of Health and Consumer Protection (DG SANCO) to prepare
different responses to the detection of influenza A(H5N1) according to the
phases and levels defined in the European pandemic preparedness plan .
EISS will monitor the spread of influenza virus strains and their epidemiological
impact in Europe during the 2004-2005 season in collaboration with the WHO
Collaborating Centre in London (http://www.nimr.mrc.ac.uk/wic/).
The first Weekly Electronic Bulletin of the 2004-2005 season will be published
on 15 October (http://www.eiss.org/cgi-files/bulletin_v2.cgi).
The bulletin will appear each week until the end of April 2005.