Epidemic intelligence activities among national public and animal health agencies: a European cross-sectional study

Timothee Dub, Henna Mäkelä, Esther van Kleef, Agnes Leblond, Alizé Mercier, Viviane Hénaux, Fanny Bouyer, Aurelie Binot, Oumy Thiongane, Renaud Lancelot, Valentina Delconte, Lea Zamuner, Wim Van Bortel, Elena Arsevska

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Epidemic Intelligence (EI) encompasses all activities related to early identification, verification, analysis, assessment, and investigation of health threats. It integrates an indicator-based (IBS) component using systematically collected surveillance data, and an event-based component (EBS), using non-official, non-verified, non-structured data from multiple sources. We described current EI practices in Europe by conducting a survey of national Public Health (PH) and Animal Health (AH) agencies. We included generic questions on the structure, mandate and scope of the institute, on the existence and coordination of EI activities, followed by a section where respondents provided a description of EI activities for three diseases out of seven disease models. Out of 81 gatekeeper agencies from 41 countries contacted, 34 agencies (42%) from 26 (63%) different countries responded, out of which, 32 conducted EI activities. Less than half (15/32; 47%) had teams dedicated to EI activities and 56% (18/34) had Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place. On a national level, a combination of IBS and EBS was the most common data source. Most respondents monitored the epidemiological situation in bordering countries, the rest of Europe and the world. EI systems were heterogeneous across countries and diseases. National IBS activities strongly relied on mandatory laboratory-based surveillance systems. The collection, analysis and interpretation of IBS information was performed manually for most disease models. Depending on the disease, some respondents did not have any EBS activity. Most respondents conducted signal assessment manually through expert review. Cross-sectoral collaboration was heterogeneous. More than half of the responding institutes collaborated on various levels (data sharing, communication, etc.) with neighbouring countries and/or international structures, across most disease models. Our findings emphasise a notable engagement in EI activities across PH and AH institutes of Europe, but opportunities exist for better integration, standardisation, and automatization of these efforts. A strong reliance on traditional IBS and laboratory-based surveillance systems, emphasises the key role of in-country laboratories networks. EI activities may benefit particularly from investments in cross-border collaboration, the development of methods that can automatise signal assessment in both IBS and EBS data, as well as further investments in the collection of EBS data beyond scientific literature and mainstream media.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1488
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Humans
  • Animals
  • Disease Outbreaks/prevention & control
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Public Health
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Intelligence


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