Echinococcus multilocularis is a tapeworm occurring throughout the Northern Hemisphere, which is transmitted primarily between wild definitive carnivorous hosts (in Europe mainly red foxes and raccoon dogs) and wild intermediate hosts (small mammals, mainly arvicolid rodents). Dogs and cats can also be infected by ingestion of an intermediate host harbouring the larval form of the parasite, and may act then as definitive host. Humans can become accidentally infected by ingesting tapeworm eggs excreted by the definitive host and the resulting infection, alveolar echinococcosis (AE), is considered one of the most severe human parasitoses in non-tropical regions. In Europe, E. multilocularis is found in foxes in a range of central European countries, but has never been found in Finland, Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom.
In order to ensure continuous protection of Finland, Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom, that claim to have remained free of the parasite Echinococcus multilocularis (EM) as a result of applying national rules until 31 December 2011, Regulation (EU) No 1152/2011 of 14 July 2011 was adopted by the Commission as regards preventive health measures for the control of Echinococcus multilocularis infection in dogs. The Regulation includes, among other obligations for these Member States, the requirement to implement a pathogen-specific surveillance programme aimed at detecting the parasite, if present in any part of those Member States, and provides the specifications for these programmes. The results of the pathogen-specific surveillance programmes must be reported to the Commission by 31 May following the end of each 12-month surveillance period.
The Commission has requested EFSA to analyse and critically assess the sampling strategy considered for these programmes, the data collected as well as the detection methods used in the framework of these programmes and to produce a report the outcome of this assessment each year in October.
The first surveillance reports are due by 31 May 2013. This report proposes a harmonised reporting system for surveillance systems in compliance with Regulation (EU) No 1152/2011 to facilitate reporting as well as assessment of reports. The proposal is based on the guidelines for animal health surveillance of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code 2012 specifies in chapter 1.4 critical elements that need to be addressed in assessing the quality of a surveillance system (OIE, 2012). These elements were specified for E. multilocularis surveillance in the context of Regulation (EU) No 1152/2011, consulting two recent EFSA publications on E. multilocularis (EFSA, 2007, Boué et al., 2010) and additional relevant scientific literature.
The approach proposed for the reporting E. multilocularis surveillance system results consists of two parts. First, a tool for the description of the surveillance system has been developed specifically for this purpose by EFSA. The tool requires the specification of all parameters needed for describing the surveillance system of the respective Member State, such as design prevalence, population size and sensitivity of diagnostic tests used. Once the necessary information has been entered, the tool allows the calculation of the appropriate sample size and the assessment of the sensitivity of the surveillance system, i.e. whether the surveillance system fulfils the requirements for confidence outlined in Regulation (EU) No 1152/2011. Second, a data reporting framework is proposed indicating all relevant data that must be reported to enable assessment of the surveillance results. While the first part of the approach is generic and can be applied to any system designed to demonstrate absence of infection, the second part is specific for E. multilocularis surveillance in animals as requested by Regulation (EU) No 1152/2011.
The proposal for the E. multilocularis surveillance reporting format has been reviewed by four experts on E. multilocularis infection in animals and two experts on animal disease surveillance and modelling and was discussed and agreed with representatives of the four Member States.