University of Arizona researchers are taking the lead on a vitally important public health project. They will be studying both the legal and public health issues facing airports during outbreaks of infectious diseases such as the Zika virus and Ebola.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine contracted with the university’s Regulatory Science Program to conduct the research.
According to the university, the contract will pay for legal research on laws and regulations to identify and describe rights and duties arising from a potential disease transmittal through air travel.
The Regulatory Science Program is a partnership between the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and the James E. Rogers College of Law.
Issues to be addressed include isolation and quarantine, disease surveillance and contact tracing.
In a U of A Department of Medicine news release – Leila Barraza, the program’s co-director, was quoted as saying, “With the ease of global travel, communicable diseases are just a plane ride away from entering our country. This project will result in a playbook that will provide clarity and guidance for airport managers and attorneys on the legal rights, powers, and duties of airports when responding to communicable diseases spread through air travel.”
The news release went on to say that Ms. Barraza will “lead the research and development of a uniform playbook of best practices to be used by airport lawyers and managers when dealing with public health emergencies, including those involving communicable diseases. The playbook will outline the legal scope and responsibilities of airports in addressing these emergencies, as well as explore the roles of various stakeholders involved in health-related emergencies and air travel.”
This issue was top of mind last summer, when there were numerous reported cases of the Zika virus in our state. Those cases were found to be people who acquired the virus elsewhere (by traveling to Zika-infected areas) before coming to Arizona.
Share your thoughts on this new research and how it might be able to help (with issues like we saw with the Zika virus) to improve public health if and when the next infectious outbreak strikes. Finding innovative new ways to keep people safer and healthier is critical if we hope to one day reach our long-term goal of making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!