Background: Actions at European Union level for International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 implementation and maritime transport were focused on two European projects implemented between 2006 and 2011.
Method: Situation analysis and needs assessment were conducted, a Manual including European standards and best practice and training material was developed and training courses were delivered. Ship-to-port and port-to-port communication web-based network and database for recording IHR Ship Sanitation Certificates (SSC) were established.
Results: Fifty pilot inspections based on the Manual were conducted on passenger ships. A total of 393 corrective actions were implemented according to recommendations given to Captains during pilot inspections. The web-based communication network of competent authorities at ports in EU Member States was used to manage 13 events/outbreaks (dengue fever, Legionnaires' disease, gastroenteritis, meningitis, varicella and measles). The European information database system was used for producing and recording 1018 IHR SSC by 156 inspectors in 6 countries in accordance with the WHO Handbook for inspection of ships and issuance of SSC.
Conclusions: Implementation of corrective actions after pilot inspections increased the level of compliance with the hygiene standards in passenger ships sailing within the EU waters and improved hygiene conditions. The communication tool contributed to improvement of outbreak identification and better management through rapid sharing of public health information, allowing a more timely and coordinated response. After the implementation of actions on passenger ships, the European Commission co-funded a Joint action that will expand the activities to all types of ships and chemical, biological and radio-nuclear threats (deliberate acts/accidental).
Keywords: Health; International Health Regulations; Maritime; Ship; Travel.
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