The International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR (2005)) entered into force for the United States on 18 July 2007. IHR (2005), spells out obligations and provides guidance for Member States to assess and manage serious health threats that have the potential to spread beyond their borders.
Under the 1969 version of the International Health Regulations, the United States and other World Health Organization (WHO) Member States were required to report only four diseases: smallpox, cholera, plague, and yellow fever. Under IHR (2005), Member States must report to WHO any cases within their borders of specific diseases: smallpox, polio caused by a wild-type poliovirus, human influenza caused by a new subtype, and SARS. In addition, Member States must notify WHO in a timely way of any threat that qualifies as a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern"(PHEIC)—whether infectious, chemical, biological, or radiological.
Once a WHO member country identifies an event of concern, the country must assess the public health risks of the event within 48 hours. If the event is determined to be notifiable under the IHR, the country must report the information to WHO within 24 hours.
In keeping with its federalist form of government—under which federal and state governments share authorities—the United States will continue strengthen already strong state and local reporting and response networks to comply with the IHR (2005). On June 28, 2007, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists approved a position statement supporting IHR (2005). The United States also interprets the new regulations to mean that:
- countries must report incidents that involve the natural, accidental or deliberate release of chemical, biological, or radiological materials;
- countries must report, when possible, potential public health emergencies that are occurring in other countries; and
- there is no separate individual right to legal action against the federal government.
Cooperation by federal, state, and local officials is critical
To meet the requirements of IHR (2005) regulations, the United States is using strong state and local reporting and response networks to receive information at the federal level and then to respond to events of concern at the local and federal levels. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has assumed the lead role in carrying out the reporting requirements for IHR (2005). The Health and Human Services’ Secretary’s Operations Center (SOC) is the central body (referred to as the National Focal Point) responsible for reporting events to WHO.
Other federal agencies supporting IHR (2005) implantation include Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Trade Representative, and the United States Postal Service.