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The JAMA Forum
November 6, 2018

Public Health Emergency Preparedness: Globalizing Risk, Localizing Threats

Author Affiliations
  • 1University Professor and Faculty Director, O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center
JAMA. 2018;320(17):1743-1744. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.16491

Infectious diseases are a constant reality, yet it takes a shock to jolt the public’s attention and spur political action. The past weeks saw such as a shock at busy US airports, with the emergency quarantine of 3 flights. At the same time, seemingly a world away, insecurity, weak health systems, and distrust are fueling a second major Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this year. Yet reacting to periodic shocks won’t safeguard our collective future. Emergency preparedness requires proactive planning and funding, with US leadership pivotal.

In the first week of September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quarantined 3 flights, carrying sick passengers into New York City and Philadelphia. On 1 of the flights, Emirates Flight 203 from Dubai, 100 passengers fell ill. A dozen passengers were treated for suspected influenza. The CDC, which maintains quarantine stations at all major points of entry, quarantined the flights, inspecting passengers and crew.