The reaction to emergencies

The CCM is not just prevention, but it is also a coordination tool for activities to react to emergencies, i.e. arrangement of on-time reactions to both extraordinary events (such as terrorist attacks, spreading of new infectious biological agents, fortuitous release of chemical or infectious agents, flu pandemics, etc.) and recurrent events (such as food toxic infections, hospital related infections, accidents occurring during medical assistance activities, etc).

Since year 1990 end, when the infectious diseases information system and related communication flow were defined, a network of Health Services in charge of epidemiological investigations and critical contact search was embedded within the health national system in order to facilitate the control of eventual epidemics. Thanks to the CCM activities, the improvement of the diagnostic potential of the system was started. That was achieved by strengthening the national reference labs network, which actually is established in all Italian Regions. Furthermore, quality standards and diagnostic criteria were agreed upon. The present reference labs network allows an adequate monitoring of circulation of flu viruses, both human and animal, as well as of invasive bacterial infections and diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. In December 2004, a CCM sub-committee in charge of flu and pandemics was established. Its members are representatives of Ministries (Health, Foreign Affairs, Interiors and Defence) and other national institutions, representatives of Civil Protection Department as well as university researchers.

The sub-committee developed the “National plan for preparation and reaction to eventual flu pandemics”, which provides technical indications for prevention of and reaction to yearly flu epidemics. During pandemic phases it will act as Pandemics Committee. An effective communication network among operational structures both internal and external to the national Health system was established. Responsibilities and roles at each operation level (central, regional and local) were clearly defined.

During the first three years of activity, the CCM reacted timely to a large number of epidemic alarms, both real and suspected, not only within the infectious diseases sector.