Avian Flu, Asian-Americans, and the Proposed Cdc Federal Quarantine Regulations: A Recipe for Disaster

Posted: 18 Jul 2006 Last revised: 15 May 2013

See all articles by Seema Mohapatra

Seema Mohapatra

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law


The United States has a dark history of discrimination during times of crisis and turmoil. Just in the last century, residents and citizens of the United States have been detained for alleged communist ties that were actually motivated by racist sentiments towards Russian and Eastern European immigrant status during the Palmer Raids, Japanese citizens were taken to internment camps during World War II solely due to their Japanese heritage, and currently thousands of immigrants from Arab or Muslim countries have been detained and questioned without any justification except their racial heritage in the name of the "war against terror." Such suspension of constitutional rights occurs just as often in public health emergencies, as it does in political ones. Two tools that public health officials use to attempt to contain the spread of a communicable disease are isolation and quarantine. Isolation is defined as the separation of persons who have a specific infectious illness from those who are healthy and the restriction of their movement to stop the spread of that illness. In contrast, quarantine refers to the separation and restriction of movement of persons, who, while not yet ill, have been exposed to an infectious agent and therefore may become infectious. Unfortunately, historically, the use of isolation and quarantine has often been inappropriate or ineffective.

This paper examines the Federal Quarantine Regulations recently proposed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to address the potential Avian Flu pandemic. These proposed regulations contain numerous constitutional problems that will potentially impact all residents of the United States. Although this is harmful to all Americans, the probable discriminatory impact of those regulations on Asians and Asian-Americans in the United States in the case of an Avian Flu outbreak will be greater because of the geography of the virus and the history of discrimination against Asian Americans.

This paper will outline the constitutional shortcomings of the proposed quarantine regulations and selected historical examples of discrimination against Asians during public health scares in the United States. This combination will be particularly troublesome for Asian-Americans if there is an Avian Flu pandemic, given that the majority of human cases of Avian Flu have originated in Asia.

Keywords: Avian Flu, Asian Americans, Epidemics, Quarantine

Suggested Citation

Mohapatra, Seema, Avian Flu, Asian-Americans, and the Proposed Cdc Federal Quarantine Regulations: A Recipe for Disaster. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=912620

Seema Mohapatra (Contact Author)

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law ( email )

530 West New York Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
United States

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