- WASHINGTON -- The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has proposed updates to existing
regulations that would allow the agency to move more swiftly to control
a potential outbreak of disease that may result when a sick passenger arrives
in the United States via commercial airline or ship. The regulations were
proposed in November and published in the Federal Register for public comment.
- "CDC is committed to protecting health by preventing
the introduction of communicable diseases into the United States,"
said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding in a statement. "These updated
regulations are necessary to expedite and improve CDC operations by facilitating
contact tracing and prompting immediate medical follow-up of potentially
infected passengers and their contacts."
- Key updates to existing regulations include: expanding
reporting of sick passengers onboard interstate flights as well as airline
flights and ships arriving from foreign countries; requiring that ships
and airline flights arriving from foreign countries and certain interstate
flights maintain passenger and crew lists and submit lists electronically
to CDC upon request; and explicit due process provisions for persons subject
- Most public health actions are voluntary because ill
and infected travelers often understand the importance of keeping themselves
separated from others and remaining in a safe location where they receive
care. CDC's quarantine authority generally would only be used if someone
posed a threat to public health and refused to cooperate with a voluntary
- In 2003, CDC experienced a number of challenges in contacting
airline passengers who may have been exposed to SARS during travel. Building
on the SARS experience, CDC began increasing the number of quarantine stations
and enhanced the training and response capacity of all staff. In addition,
work began after the outbreak was controlled to evaluate and analyze what
changes were necessary in federal regulations to modernize control of communicable
disease and quarantine regulations.
- The Public Health Service Act authorizes the Department
of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make regulations to prevent the introduction,
transmission, and spread of communicable diseases into the United States
and from one state into any other state. Existing communicable disease
regulations are outdated, have not kept up with advances in disease control
measures and have not been substantially updated for over 25 years.
- A communicable disease is one that can pass from a person
or animal to another person. CDC's role is to contact individuals who may
have been exposed to a communicable disease and recommend appropriate treatments,
or initiate such public health actions as isolation and quarantine. HHS
is empowered to prevent persons who are believed to have one of nine specific
communicable diseases from entering the country through the use of isolation
and quarantine. These diseases include Pandemic influenza, Cholera, diphtheria,
infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever, viral hemorrhagic
fevers and SARS.