The Ebola Epidemic: A Public Health Emergency of International Concern

JAMA, Vol. 312, pp. 1095-1096, 2014

3 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2014

See all articles by Lawrence O. Gostin

Lawrence O. Gostin

Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

Daniel Lucey

Georgetown University

Alexandra Phelan

Center for Global Health Science & Security; Georgetown University, Law Center

Date Written: September 17, 2014

Abstract

On August 8, 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan declared the West Africa Ebola crises a “public health emergency of international concern,” triggering powers under the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR).

The most affected West African states have attempted classic public health measures with varied success, including quarantine and isolation, social distancing, risk communication, and travel restrictions. These have involved a trade off between population health and human rights; sometimes to the disadvantage of both. At the same time, the countries’ health systems and human resources are fragile, impeding an effective response.

Beyond the public health and humanitarian implications, this crisis has raised controversial ethical issues concerning the withholding or providing early access to investigational therapies, the preference given to foreign aid workers, and the disproportionate impact of Ebola on domestic health care workers.

The WHO director-general’s declaration of a public health emergency of international concern underscores the urgency of a coordinated international response and the imperative of raising the health systems capacity of low-income states. However, the current outbreak demonstrates how global governance has suffered from a lack of binding international commitment to sustainable capacity building and technical assistance in low-income states.

Keywords: global health, WHO, Ebola, international health regulations, global governance

JEL Classification: K00, K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Gostin, Lawrence O. and Lucey, Daniel and Phelan, Alexandra, The Ebola Epidemic: A Public Health Emergency of International Concern (September 17, 2014). JAMA, Vol. 312, pp. 1095-1096, 2014, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2497542

Lawrence O. Gostin (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9038 (Phone)
202-662-9055 (Fax)

Daniel Lucey

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Alexandra Phelan

Center for Global Health Science & Security

3900 Reservoir Road, N.W.
Washington, DC 20057
United States

Georgetown University, Law Center ( email )

Washington, DC
United States

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