In 2010 the Obama administration did away with proposed quarantine regulations that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considered to be critical to protecting Americans in the event of deadly diseases being spread by travelers. The regulations, which had been proposed in 2005 as a reaction to the H5N1 avian flu virus that spread globally that year, would have given additional responsibilities to airlines dealing with passengers who could be infected with deadly diseases.
The regulations would have given federal government powers to detain sick airline passengers and people exposed to certain diseases. The regulations would have also created stricter airline policy with regards to reporting ill passengers to the CDC, and airlines would have been mandated to collect contact information from passengers in case that information was later needed to trace infection in the event of an outbreak.
The CDC would have been empowered to detain people involuntarily for three business days if they suspected certain diseases–namely pandemic flu, infectious tuberculosis, plague, cholera, SARS, smallpox, yellow fever, diphtheria and Ebola.
The regulations were initiated under the Bush Administration. In 2008, CDC spokesperson Christine Person said of the measures, “It’s important to public well being to move forward with the regulations. We require to update our quarantine regulations, and this final rule is an important step.”
Although CDC officials said that the additional powers would only be used in rare circumstances of health threats, the regulations were opposed by airlines and civil liberties organizations, which complained of the costs associated with the responsibilities, as well as the potential for privacy rights violations.
By Heidi Woolf