Specific Laws and Regulations Governing the Control of Communicable Diseases
The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services has statutory responsibility for preventing the introduction, transmission, and spread of communicable diseases in the United States. Under its delegated authority, the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine works to fulfill this responsibility through a variety of activities, including
- the operation of Quarantine Stations at ports of entry
- establishment of standards for medical examination of persons destined for the United States, and
- administration of interstate and foreign quarantine regulations, which govern the international and interstate movement of persons, animals, and cargo.
The legal foundation for these activities is found in Titles 8 and 42 of the U.S. Code and relevant supporting regulations.
Legal Authorities for Isolation and Quarantine
The federal government derives its authority for isolation and quarantine from the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Read more on the Legal Authorities for Isolation and Quarantine page.
United States Federal Laws and Regulations for Control of Communicable Diseases
United States Code
The United States Code is a consolidation and codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States. Sections 264-272 of the following portion of the code apply: Title 42 – The Public Health and Welfare, Chapter 6A – Public Health Service, Subchapter II – General Powers and Duties, Part G – Quarantine and Inspection. Links are provided by the Government Printing Officeexternal icon.
- 42 USC Part G – Quarantine and Inspectionexternal icon; Introductory page
- Sec. 264. Regulations to control communicable diseasesexternal icon
- Sec. 265. Suspension of entries and imports from designated places to prevent spread of communicable diseasesexternal icon
- Sec. 266. Special quarantine powers in time of warexternal icon
- Sec. 267. Quarantine stations, grounds, and anchoragesexternal icon
- Sec. 268. Quarantine duties of consular and other officersexternal icon
- Sec. 269. Bills of healthexternal icon
- Sec. 270. Quarantine regulations governing civil air navigation and civil aircraftexternal icon
- Sec. 271. Penalties for violation of quarantine lawsexternal icon
- Sec. 272. Administration of oaths by quarantine officersexternal icon
Code of Federal Regulations
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the official and complete text of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register. These regulations are established by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government. The CFR is divided into various titles that represent broad subject areas of Federal regulation. CDC’s regulations fall under Title 42: Public Health, Chapter 1 – Public Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services.
Links are from the Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration on the United States Government Printing Officeexternal icon web site. Specifically, Parts 70 and 71 of the following portion of the CFR apply:
- 42 CFR, Part 70: Interstate Quarantineexternal icon
- 42 CFR, Part 71: Foreign Quarantineexternal icon
On January 19th, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the Final Rule titled Final Rule for Control of Communicable Diseases: Interstate and Foreign. This Final Rule enhances HHS/CDC’s ability to prevent the introduction, transmission, and spread of communicable diseases into the United States and interstate by clarifying and providing greater transparency regarding its response capabilities and practices. The final rule is published on the Office of the Federal Register’s website.external icon This regulation became effective on March 21st, 2017.
On March 27, 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the CDC published a Notice in the Federal Register titled Federal Register Notice: Criteria for Recommending Federal Travel Restrictions for Public Health Purposes, Including for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. This Notice was posted to describe the tools the federal government has to ensure that people with serious contagious diseases that pose a public health threat do not board commercial flights or enter into the United States without a public health evaluation. It also lists the criteria that CDC uses in deciding whether to recommend using such tools.
On July 10, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted guidance on the issuance and enforcement of dog confinement agreements. This guidance describes the factors that HHS/CDC will consider in deciding whether to issue a dog confinement agreement or deny entry of a dog being imported into the United States that has not been adequately vaccinated against rabies. Dog confinement agreements are covered under 42 CFR 71.51. This guidance becomes effective on August 11, 2014 (30 days after publication).
On February 15, 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a final rule that revises HHS/CDC Regulation 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 71.53, the regulations for importation of nonhuman primates (NHPs) into the United States. The final rule clarifies the process for importing NHPs and explains all requirements importers must follow to prevent the spread of disease from NHPs to humans. The final rule is effective beginning April 16, 2013.
On February 12, 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a final rule establishing a user fee for filovirus testing of nonhuman primates (NHPs). According to the final rule, CDC will charge a $540 user fee to cover the costs for testing of NHP samples submitted to the CDC. Filovirus antigen-capture testing is required for all Old World NHPs that die for any reason other than trauma during the mandatory 31-day quarantine period or that have illness consistent with filovirus infection. This rule became effective on March 14, 2013.
On December 26, 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted two direct final rules to the Federal Register that amend the Interstate and Foreign Quarantine Regulations. The public comment period through a simultaneously published notice of proposed rulemaking ended on January 25, 2013. The updates reorganize the Scope and Definitions for 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 70 (Interstate Quarantine) and 42 CFR Part 71 (Foreign Quarantine) to reflect modern terminology and plain language used by industry and public health partners. The final rules are effective as of February 25, 2013.
Executive Orders specify the list of diseases for which federal quarantine is authorized, which is required by the Public Health Service Act. On recommendation of the HHS Secretary, the President may amend this list whenever necessary to add new communicable diseases, including emerging diseases that are a threat to public health. The most recent Executive Order added measles to the list of quarantinable communicable diseases.
Executive Order on Adding Measles to the List of Quarantinable Communicable Diseasesexternal icon
Executive Order 13295 of April 4, 2003 (Revised List of Quarantinable Communicable Diseases), section 1 of Executive Order 13295, as amended by Executive Order 13375 of April 1, 2005 (Amendment to Executive Order 13295 Relating to Certain Influenza Viruses and Quarantinable Communicable Diseases), Executive Order 13674 of July 31, 2014 (Revised List of Quarantinable Communicable Diseases), and Executive Order 14047 of September 17, 2021 (Executive Order on Adding Measles to the List of Quarantinable Communicable Diseases).
- Additional Public Health Law Resources
- For animal importation and quarantine regulations, please see the Laws and Regulations page on the Animal Importation site