CDC Proposes New Quarantine Rules
CDC on Tuesday proposed "the first significant changes in quarantine rules in 25 years" as part of the federal government's effort to prepare for a possible flu pandemic or other contagious disease outbreak, the New York Times reports (Altman, New York Times, 11/23). The proposed changes, to be published in the Federal Register, are expected to cost an estimated $185 million to $865 million annually to implement (Weiss, Washington Post, 11/23).
The cost to the airline and cruise industries could be as much as $395 million annually (McKay, Wall Street Journal, 11/23). The proposed changes would:
- Require airlines and cruise lines to keep electronic records of passengers' personal information -- including detailed contact information and seat location -- for at least 60 days.
- Require airlines and cruise lines to provide the passenger information to CDC within 12 hours of a request.
- Allow passengers to refuse to give their personal contact information and still be allowed to travel.
- Require ship and airline captains to report to CDC any deaths or signs of serious illness on board, ideally before arriving at their destination. Existing requirements state only that captains report illnesses and deaths to local health departments (Washington Post, 11/23).
- Expand the definition of illness to include "respiratory ailments like influenza," the Times reports. Passengers would be considered ill if they had a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater in addition to rash, swollen lymph nodes, headache with neck stiffness, and changes in levels of consciousness or cognitive function. Diarrhea, a fever that has lasted more than 48 hours, severe bleeding, jaundice, severe persistent cough or respiratory distress also would indicate illness (New York Times, 11/23).
- Allow CDC to detain a sick individual for three business days without a hearing, with an option to extend the quarantine if medical tests confirm the need to do so.
- Prohibit CDC from forcibly isolating individuals for longer than the amount of time it takes for the suspected illness to no longer be communicable -- generally less than a month for most diseases (Washington Post, 11/23).
- Clarify the appeals process for individuals who are quarantined to allow for "administrative due process," according to the Times.
- Give health officials "explicit authority to offer vaccination, drugs and other appropriate means of prevention on a voluntary basis to those in quarantine," the Times reports.
Martin Cetron, director of CDC's division of global migration and quarantine, said if the new regulations are adopted, they "will allow the CDC to move more swiftly" in working to control outbreaks of disease (New York Times, 11/23). He added that the passenger data would be kept confidential and be used only for public health reasons. "There are some very rigorous standards of privacy with which this information will be treated," Cetron said. CDC officials are "optimistic we would have a high degree of compliance" if U.S. residents are aware that the information will be used only for public health purposes, he added.
The Air Transport Association said in a statement that "there no doubt is a need to update current regulations to ensure the absolute safety of our passengers and employees. To what extent changes need to be made to existing practices will be done cooperatively with the CDC."
The International Council of Cruise Lines said it will study the proposed changes, noting it already provides some passenger information to the government.
CDC is allowing for a 60-day comment period for the proposed changes and hopes to have a final rule ready in the spring. Airlines and cruise lines would have two years to implement the changes if adopted (Wall Street Journal, 11/23).