The European Union's disease control agency said Thursday that while tuberculosis and HIV remain a concern the emergence of drug-resistant microbes poses a growing threat to public health in Europe.
Germs resistant to antibiotics are rapidly spreading in hospitals across the 27-member bloc, and about 3 million people become infected every year while receiving health care, a report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said. About 50,000 of them die, the report said.
"It is unacceptable to me that one in every 10 patients entering hospital in the EU will catch an infection there," EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said in a statement. "Supporting action to address this problem will be a priority for the Commission and for ECDC in the coming year."
Kyprianou said preparedness for an influenza pandemic, which could be caused by an existing flu virus mutating into a super-virulent strain, remains a priority for EU health authorities.
The report said EU countries were generally being successful in fighting infections diseases - most of the 49 diseases surveyed were either stable or declining.
However, it said tuberculosis remains a threat in the EU, with nearly 60,000 cases reported in 2005, while the rate of HIV infection continues to rise.
About 27,000 new HIV cases were identified in 2005 for a total of 700,000. Estonia had by far the highest rate of infection, with 467 cases per 1 million residents, ahead of Portugal and Britain.
The Stockholm-based ECDC was set up in 2005 to boost Europe's defenses against infectious diseases.