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New International Health Regulations to Enter into Force Tomorrow

The revised International Health Regulations (IHR) will enter into force on Friday. The regulations consist of a comprehensive and tested set of rules and procedures, which envisages making the world more secure from threats to global health.

The revised regulations were agreed by the World Health Assembly in 2005 and represent a major step forward in international public health security.

It establishes an agreed framework of commitments and responsibilities for countries and for the World Health Organization (WHO) to invest in limiting the international spread of epidemics and other public health emergencies while minimizing disruption to travel, trade and economies. Under the revised IHR, countries will be required to report all events that could result in public health emergencies of international concern, including those caused by chemical agents, radioactive materials and contaminated food.

According to a WHO release, in the early 21st century, demographic, economic and environmental pressures have created a unique combination of conditions that allow new and re-emerging infectious diseases to spread as never before. The experience of recent decades shows that no individual country can protect itself from diseases and other public health threats. All countries are vulnerable to the spread of pathogens and their economic, political and social impact.

The emergence of SARS in 2003 demonstrated as no previous disease outbreak ever had how interconnected the world has become and how rapidly a new disease can spread. This shared vulnerability has also created a need for collective defences and for shared responsibility in making these defences work. This is the underlying principle of the International Health Regulations.

"SARS was a wake-up call for all of us. It spread faster than we had predicted and was only contained through intensive cooperation between countries which prevented this new
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