Prague hosted conference on public health protection

From February 7th to February 9th, the Ministers of Health of the Visegrad 4 Group - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - as well as those from Austria, Slovenia and Ukraine held a conference in Prague. The topic was 'international co-operation in the surveillance of infectious diseases and bio-terrorism'. More from Dita Asiedu:

The main goal of the conference was to adopt joint measures in the battle against infectious diseases and to encourage countries to work together against possible bio-terrorist attacks. The host of the conference, Czech Health Minister Bohumil Fiser, explained why it was necessary.

"The conference is a follow-up to our meeting in Warsaw last summer. There, we agreed to conduct a similar conference dedicated to the subject of public health protection. With respect to the events of September 11, however, public health protection has acquired an entirely different dimension in particular with respect to terrorism, especially bio-terrorism. We now plan to use the capacities of individual countries to co-operate against infectious diseases that are spreading. Resources that we have against bio-terrorism and the contracting and spreading of infectious diseases will be deployed jointly and as fast as possible."

The head of the Austrian delegation, Dr Franz Pietsch from the Federal Ministry for Social Security and Generations, also stressed that, for maximum efficiency, the fight against the spread of infectious diseases and potential bio-terrorism needed to be a joint battle by European countries and one that surpassed EU borders:

"We are a neighbouring country of the Czech Republic and as you know we are also a member of the EU and when it comes to that, it is sure that there are certain public health treaties. The most important in Europe is the Amsterdam Treaty of 1999, which brought an important step forward in the collaboration of the member states inside the EU in the area of public health with the priorities of what we are discussing here at the conference too. When it comes to improving health information, knowledge, responding rapidly to health threats and addressing health determinants, this conference involves international communication and cooperation and it shows us solutions in a global problem, which not only connects the neighbouring countries here but all over the world. It's a reason to sign the declaration which gives the possibility to have joint positions."

Sergiy Pozdnyakov is the Chief Scientist at the Institute of Plague Studies in Ukraine and also stressed the importance of the conference:

"I would like to mark that the importance of this conference is very high. In the past there were similar systems of epidemiological protection of our people and territories but at present we need to refresh and harmonise all these things because in the case of a future biological attack, there will be no time to choose the different systems. We are living very close to each other and we need to take the same steps in the present to be ready and take the right way in the case of very hard, future bio-terrorist acts."

And Dita Asiedu will be taking a closer look at the conference of European Health Ministers in this week's Central Europe Today.