Bush Issues Executive Order To Allow Federal Government To Quarantine Individuals With SARS
President Bush on Friday issued an executive order adding the illness known as severe acute respiratory syndrome to the list of diseases for which the government may enact a quarantine, the Washington Post reports. The order gives HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson the authority to quarantine anyone in the United States suspected of having SARS. Federal officials said that they do not expect to have to enact any such quarantine measures, and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer called the order a "logical precaution" against the spread of SARS (Stein, Washington Post, 4/5). In a statement, Thompson said, "By amending the list, we are simply taking the pragmatic step of readying all options as we continue to tackle this disease. This authority would only be used if someone posed a threat to public health and refused to cooperate with a voluntary request" (HHS release, 4/4). The executive order calls for the "apprehension, detention or conditional release of individuals to prevent the introduction, transmission or spread of suspected communicable diseases," the Los Angeles Times reports. Health officials urged the president to issue the order after a woman who exhibited SARS symptoms after arriving on a flight from Asia refused treatment and authorities were unable to detain her, according to the Times (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 4/5). The executive order marks the first addition in 20 years to the list of diseases that can merit a quarantine. Other diseases on the list include cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever and viral hemorrhagic fevers (Washington Post, 4/5). ABCNews' "World News Tonight" reported on Bush's quarantine approval (Johnson, "World News Tonight," ABCNews, 4/4). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer at rtsp://22.214.171.124/advisory/AHL/abcquarantine.rm. In addition, CBS' "Evening News" reported on the order (Kaledin, "CBS Evening News," CBS, 4/4). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer at rtsp://126.96.36.199/advisory/AHL/cbsquarantine.rm.
As of April 5, the latest date for which official numbers are available, SARS had infected 2,416 people and led to the deaths of 89 people in 20 countries, according to the World Health Organization. The United States has reported 115 suspected cases and no deaths from the illness (WHO daily update, 4/5). On Thursday, the Senate approved an additional $16 million in an amendment to the fiscal year 2003 supplemental appropriations bill to fund CDC research about SARS and to assist local health departments, the New York Times reports (Rosenthal/Altman, New York Times, 4/5). The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today is set to hear testimony on SARS from Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC; Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Dr. David Heymann, executive director of communicable diseases for the WHO (Committee schedule, 4/7). The cause of SARS remains unknown, and WHO investigators have not found "breakthrough clues" and predict a "long job" in finding the origin of the illness, the Wall Street Journal reports (Chen, Wall Street Journal, 4/7). Public health officials are working with the pharmaceutical industry to raise interest in a SARS vaccine, the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Fauci said a vaccine for SARS will take at least a year to develop (Meckler, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.