Laws and Regulations
- Keeping Americans Safe and Healthy Through Federal Regulations
- Specific Laws and Regulations that DGMH fulfills under CDC’s mission
As seen in recent years, disease outbreaks such as Zika, Ebola, and COVID-19 can rapidly spread across national borders and pose direct threats to the United States. With millions of people traveling by air, land, and sea each year, DGMH meets the challenges of protecting people’s health in the United States through public health regulations.
Congress passed certain laws giving the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the authority to prevent the introduction and spread of contagious diseases in the United States. The HHS Secretary delegated this authority to the CDC, and operations are carried out by the Division of Global Migration Health (DGMH) within CDC. DGMH works to fulfill this responsibility through its operations at ports of entry, administration of interstate and foreign quarantine regulations, and establishment of requirements for the medical examination of individuals coming to live and work in the United States.
People are able to travel around the world faster and more easily than ever before, creating health risks and potential global consequences. This regulatory authority allows CDC to prevent the spread of infectious diseases into and throughout the United States.
The regulations give CDC the ability to:
- Develop medical screening protocols for physicians throughout the world who conduct medical examinations of immigrants and refugees before their admission into the United States.
- Restrict the importation of certain items brought into the United States that may pose threats to public health. These items include many animals, items made from certain animals, and human remains.
- Defend against the spread of infectious diseases into and throughout the United States. Our 20 port health stations, which are located at the busiest ports of entry around the country are an important domestic “line of defense.” CDC and its partners, such as US Customs and Border Protection and local emergency medical services, evaluate travelers entering the United States for signs of serious communicable diseases.
Federal regulations apply to the following if they are coming into the United States from another country by land, air, or sea:
- Any person (including U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and foreign nationals)
- Conveyances (airplane, ship, bus, or train)
- Animals regulated by CDC
- Articles (bushmeat, hunting trophies, or other animal products made from CDC-regulated animals; some goatskin drums; and other items that might be infectious to people)
- Human remains
DGMH supports medical examination requirements of individuals coming to live and work in the United States. DGMH develops medical screening protocols for physicians who provide these examinations. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), along with the Public Health Service Act, gives the federal government the authority to issue guidelines explaining the requirements for these medical exams.
Federal regulations allow staff at U.S. Port Health Stations to take certain actions to limit the introduction and spread of contagious diseases in the United States. Port Health Stations provide the first line of defense against the introduction of serious contagious diseases, such as Ebola or Middle East respiratory syndrome, into the United States. These port health stations, located at major U.S. ports of entry, serve as a focal point for responses to potential infectious disease outbreaks that may be caused by sick or exposed travelers or certain imported items.
Imported items can sometimes introduce diseases that are a severe threat to public health. As a result, CDC has the authority to restrict several types of items from importation to the United States. These items include certain animals and products made from these animals that could pose a public health risk.
DGMH collaborates with other countries to prevent serious public health threats from spreading beyond a single country’s border to other parts of the world. Through the International Health Regulations, or IHR (2005), 196 countries, including all World Health Organization Member States, have agreed to work together for global health security by preventing serious public health threats from spreading beyond a single country’s border to other parts of the world. Such serious public health threats are defined as public health emergencies of international concern, or PHEIC. Through the IHR, all countries have agreed to build public health capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to emerging disease threats and outbreaks. The IHR also include specific measures at ports, airports, and ground crossings to limit the spread of health risks to neighboring countries. The U.S. government has also designated CDC Port Health Stations as the authority for implementing the IHR and preventing unwarranted travel and trade restrictions so that traffic and trade disruption is kept to a minimum.