2009 Influenza A(H1N1) Outbreak: Selected Legal Issues [May 6, 2009]   [open pdf - 339KB]

From the Summary: "Recent human cases of infection with a novel influenza A(H1N1) virus have been identified both internationally and in the United States. Since there has been human to human transmission and the new virus has the potential to become pandemic, it is timely to examine the legal issues surrounding this emerging public health threat. 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. […] The use of these emergency measures to contain the influenza A(H1N1) virus outbreak may raise a classic civil rights issue: to what extent can an individual's liberty be curtailed to advance the common good? The U.S. Constitution and federal civil rights laws provide for individual due process and equal protection rights as well as a right to privacy, but these rights are balanced against the needs of the community. Liability issues may become particularly important during the influenza A(H1N1) virus outbreak."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R40560
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