International law and communicable diseases

Bull World Health Organ. 2002;80(12):946-51. Epub 2003 Jan 23.


Historically, international law has played a key role in global communicable disease surveillance. Throughout the nineteenth century, international law played a dominant role in harmonizing the inconsistent national quarantine regulations of European nation-states; facilitating the exchange of epidemiological information on infectious diseases; establishing international health organizations; and standardization of surveillance. Today, communicable diseases have continued to re-shape the boundaries of global health governance through legally binding and "soft-law" regimes negotiated and adopted within the mandate of multilateral institutions - the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Office International des Epizooties. The globalization of public health has employed international law as an indispensable tool in global health governance aimed at diminishing human vulnerability to the mortality and morbidity burdens of communicable diseases.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Communicable Disease Control / history
  • Communicable Disease Control / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • Global Health*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • International Agencies / history
  • International Cooperation / history
  • International Cooperation / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Public Health / history
  • Public Health / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • World Health Organization / history