The Public Health Agency of Sweden has the overall national responsibility for protecting the population against communicable diseases. The Agency must also coordinate infection control and preparedness against cross-border health threats.
A duty to monitor
The Public Health Agency of Sweden is one of many designated preparedness authorities regulated in Emergency Preparedness Ordinance (2015:1052). During heightened states of alert, these authorities have a special responsibility for planning and preparing the right conditions for crisis response, preventing vulnerabilities and resisting threats and risks.
In the event of a heightened state of alert, the Public Health Agency of Sweden must make the necessary preparations within its area of responsibility. This includes conducting tasks that are important for society, and in the event of war, supporting the Swedish Armed Forces on matters related to the Agency’s tasks. The Public Health Agency of Sweden will then initiate measures that protect the population against communicable diseases and serious health threats.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden has several standby functions that can be contacted by public authorities, the healthcare service and the media all year round at any time of day or night.
A duty officer is always on standby and can be contacted 24 hours a day by national and international actors. The duty officer collects information and intelligence thus enabling a rapid response to serious incidents related to the Agency’s area of responsibility.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden has the capacity to carry out microbiological analyses on agents that can harm healthcare or social infrastructure if special communicable disease control measures are not taken. These analyses can be conducted at any time of day or night. A clinical microbiologist is always on standby to initiate and coordinate the laboratory analyses included in preparedness diagnostics.
Individuals who have any questions about health and illness should contact the Healthcare Guide 1177 for advice.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden can conduct a large number of microbiological laboratory analyses as a complement to analyses carried out at other laboratories. The Agency offers analyses that are included in Sweden’s preparedness against highly pathogenic infectious agents, analyses of particular relevance to national communicable disease control or analyses that are only carried out on a small scale. The Agency has the only biosafety level 4 high-containment laboratory in the Nordic countries, where viruses such as the Alkhurma virus can be handled.
Crisis communication and press preparedness
Communication is essential in a crisis. Therefore, the crisis communication and press service preparedness officer are on standby 24/7 and a thorough crisis communication plan is available.
In the event of a crisis that falls under the Public Health Agency of Sweden’s area of responsibility, the Agency must be able to quickly communicate with and provide relevant information to healthcare services, other public authorities and the media. The information must be correct, clear, quick, reliable and respectful.
The Agency also runs crisis communication cooperations with national, regional and local authorities and organisations. Krisinformation.se publishes information from the Swedish authorities about social disruptions and crises, and is aimed at the general public.
Monitoring communicable diseases and health threats
The Public Health Agency of Sweden conducts national monitoring of communicable diseases and promotes communicable disease prevention, generates and spreads knowledge about communicable disease control, and provides guidance to the healthcare services and municipalities during their response to infection control.
Over 60 diseases are monitored following the Communicable Diseases Act so they can be traced and combatted. In addition to the monitoring of communicable diseases, the Agency also monitors infections and/or carriers of various antibiotic resistant bacteria. National microbial monitoring complements epidemiological monitoring by providing information about the epidemiological type of infectious agents involved in outbreaks.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden collects voluntary reports from laboratories. The Agency also has a number of systems where data from sources other than disease notifications is analysed, for example searches and calls to the Healthcare Guide 1177. These systems have the potential to detect disease outbreaks earlier than before reports are sent from healthcare systems. In addition, they also cover another portion of the population – those who did not seek medical care.
Data collected from the Public Health Agency of Sweden’s monitoring of communicable diseases is analysed regularly and provides the Agency with an overview of the epidemiological situation both in Sweden and abroad. This helps identify and block infection routes following outbreaks.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden gathers information and intelligence that focuses on identifying and following events that could pose a serious infection or other health threat to Sweden’s population, or that could be spread from Sweden to other countries.
Coordination before and during a crisis
The Public Health Agency of Sweden coordinates national communicable disease control and preparedness against serious cross-border health threats. These health threats may be caused by biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear materials. Health threats of an environmental or unknown origin are also included.
In addition, the Agency also coordinates the preparations for the supply of medicines ahead of serious outbreaks of certain communicable diseases.
As with other health threats, epidemics and outbreaks of infections often spread between countries. Therefore, Sweden participates in extensive collaborations with other countries, the EU and the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Public Health Agency of Sweden is the national point of contact for the EU and WHO for matters related to cross-border health threats.