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 Health works to fulfill this responsibility through a variety of activities, including

  • the operation of Port Health 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 Office.

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 Office web site. Specifically, Parts 70 and 71 of the following portion of the CFR apply:

Recent Updates

Executive Orders

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 Diseases
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).

Related Links
  • Additional Public Health Law Resources
  • For animal importation and quarantine regulations, please see the Laws and Regulations page on the Animal Importation site