2009 Influenza A(H1N1) Outbreak: Selected Legal Issues [Updated May 21, 2009]   [open pdf - 350KB]

"Recent human cases of infection with a novel influenza A(H1N1) virus have been identified both internationally and in the United States. […]. This report provides a brief overview of selected legal issues including emergency measures, civil rights, liability issues, and employment issues. There are a number of emergency measures which may help to contain or ameliorate an infectious disease outbreak. The Public Health Service Act and the Stafford Act contain authorities that allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the President, respectively, to take certain actions during emergencies or disasters. While the primary authority for quarantine and isolation in the United States resides at the state level, the federal government has jurisdiction over interstate and border quarantine. Border entry and border closing issues may arise in the context of measures designed to keep individuals who have, or may have, influenza A(H1N1) from crossing U.S. borders. Aliens with the H1N1 virus can be denied entry, but American citizens cannot be excluded from the United States solely because of a communicable disease, although they may be quarantined or isolated at the border for health reasons. […]. In addition, the federal government has broad legal authority to regulate and control the navigable airspace of the United States in dealing with incidents involving communicable diseases. States have authority to initiate other emergency measures such as mandatory vaccination orders and certain nonpharmaceutical interventions such as school closures, which may lessen the spread of an infectious disease. "

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R40560
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