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Health Care Esssay on The Effectiveness of State or Federal Quarantine Laws

The Effectiveness of State or Federal Quarantine Laws

There is an increase in terrorist attacks as well as contagious diseases’ spread which has prompted the US government to come up with effective measures of enhancing the response of the public health sector. Among the approaches suggested include isolating the persons affected by the terrorist action, biological agents or the communicable disease1.  Quarantine refers to movement restriction for individuals who have had an exposure to an agent of a disease. This prevents such people from getting into contact with the unexposed individuals. This process involves confinement of persons that are already infected with a contagious disease within their residences as this is what the state requires.

Lawrence2 notes that the existing laws do not touch on the issue of spreading biological agents’ diseases when terrorists use them and they also fail to touch on the emerging diseases such as SARS. This forces the public health sector to come up with measures of preventing such diseases from spreading when there is an introduction or outbreak of an agent of a contagious disease among the people. The public health sector publishes a notice forbidding individuals from moving out of or into specific areas3.

[1] Lawrence, O., (1999). The Law and the Public’s Health: A Study of Infectious Disease Law in the United States, 59, 102

2 Lawrence, O., (1999). The Law and the Public’s Health: A Study of Infectious Disease Law in the United States, 59, 102

3Justin, G., (2001). States Weighing Laws to Fight Bioterrorism, Washington Post, See section infra on the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act.

Additionally, infected people may be confined or isolated in a prison, hospital or modified quarantines in which there are restrictions for people to engage in some activities.  Angie4 notes that the Public Health Service Act has provisions that enforce regulations with an aim of preventing the transmission, spread and introduction of contagious illnesses from the other nations or between states. Nevertheless, the Secretary is restricted from establishing quarantine regulations by the law which requires consultations with the US president. Therefore, the process promotes time-consumption and bureaucracy.

According to the law, unconditional examination, detention or release should be done on immigrating individuals only if infected with biological pathogens. The law also has provisions for detention and screening of persons infected with the pathogens while moving between states. Additionally, screening is extended to every person who is believed to have the pathogen, living within the place where the president specifies and believed to carry the infection during wars5.

The Public Health Service Act restricts persons suffering from communicable diseases from traveling. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s director was mandated to enforce isolation and quarantine procedures since 20006. In Louisiana, any situation requires a court order before the detention of a person is done.

4Angie, A., (2005). Federal and State Isolation and Quarantine Authority, Congressional Research Service, The Library Congress

5 Angie, A., (2005). Federal and State Isolation and Quarantine Authority, Congressional Research Service, The Library Congress

6 Justin, G., (2001). States Weighing Laws to Fight Bioterrorism, Washington Post, See section infra on the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act.

Diseases that can subject an individual to quarantine are defined by the state and it is the right of the public health system to choose diseases that are to be classified as infectious7. Various methods specific to various states as well as local considerations determine the period of the quarantine. Isolated individuals are mostly released once the department of health ascertains that the infected persons are not a threat to the health of others and that they cannot infect others.

There are times when the quarantine laws of the state are ineffective since they do not address the emerging issues that include terrorist attacks that involve biological agents. Quarantine law has existed for over 100 years and it has some irrelevance in the contemporary context of diseases and their new treatments8. Additionally, the enactment of quarantine law was done in the face of particular communicable diseases that include typhoid and cholera. This implies that some quarantine procedures may be ineffective in preventing or addressing some illnesses like SARS.

Despite the current quarantine laws being problematic and inconsistent, the state is not efficient enough to re-evaluate them due to advancement in medicine and reduction in the threat and prevalence of the infectious diseases9.  States have been forced by recent threats to formulate strategies for emergency response such as the homeland security’s 2002 national strategy through which the president declared the need for a review of the existing quarantine law.

7 Office of Homeland Security, (2002). National Strategy for Homeland Security , http://www.whitehouse.gov/homeland/book/nat_strat_hls.pdf

8 Office of Homeland Security, (2002). National Strategy for Homeland Security , http://www.whitehouse.gov/homeland/book/nat_strat_hls.pdf

9 Lawrence, O., (1999). The Law and the Public’s Health: A Study of Infectious Disease Law in the United States, 59, 102

In a nutshell, granting local institutions and governments the power to decide when to impose quarantine gives them a chance to create strong, timely and effective response strategies that can address different problems including bioterrorism. During quarantine, the movement of the infected persons or individuals who are suspected to have the pathogens is restricted out of and into a designated area. The current quarantine law is ineffective since it fails to address the emerging health issues effectively. It also does not consider the specific needs of people who are traveling out and into a state comprehensively. Additionally, the process of making a quarantine decision as a healthcare solution promotes time-consumption, ineffectiveness and unnecessary bureaucracies.

 

References

Angie, A. (2005). Federal and State Isolation and Quarantine Authority, Congressional Research Service, The Library Congress

Justin, G. (2001). States Weighing Laws to Fight Bioterrorism, Washington Post, See section infra on the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act.

Lawrence, O. (1999). The Law and the Public’s Health: A Study of Infectious Disease Law in the United States, 59, 102

Office of Homeland Security (2002). National Strategy for Homeland Security , http://www.whitehouse.gov/homeland/book/nat_strat_hls.pdf

 

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