An amendment to U.S. law would expand public health monitoring for contagious diseases among people traveling across U.S. federal and state borders, including requiring airplane and ship crews to report people who appear sick directly to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The law will also allow health officials to examine people who may have been exposed to a disease “through electronic and internet-based means, such as email and webcam application tools.”
Symptoms that may be reported include fever, skin rash, persistent cough, a recent decrease of consciousness or increase in confusion, bruising or bleeding without injury, persistent diarrhea, persistent vomiting, headache with stiff neck, or if a person appears “obviously unwell.”
The amendment to the Public Health Service Act, called a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), would also give the CDC authority to seek help from police or other law enforcement to place people in government custody up to 72 hours, with possible “quarantine, isolation, conditional release, medical examination, hospitalization, vaccination, and treatment” as needed.
Those detained may also be responsible for medical expenses during quarantine or isolation orders, although the CDC may help “after all third-party payments have been exhausted.”
The new proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the CDC is now allowing public comments until October 14th. It does not require legislative approval to become law.
“This is a violation of our civil and human rights,” said Barbara Loe Fisher, founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center, which monitors proposed laws that may violate informed consent or raise the risk of vaccine injury or death. She considers the new NPRM to be unnecessary and a form of federal government overreach.
“We should have the ability to appeal a detention,” she said during a telephone interview. “At the very least, we need to have immediate access to an attorney if we are detained by government health officials.”
In response to questions from the Epoch Times, a CDC representative sent a link through email to general questions and answers about the NPRM on the CDC website.
The NPRM does state that an appeals process exists, and health officials must explain the process to a person being detained, but it does not appear that people will have immediate access to legal representation. Among state laws, only Georgia explicitly allows people under quarantine or isolation orders access to legal representation and the ability to challenge those orders in court, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
HHS and the CDC specifically asked for public comment about the NPRM’s detention and appeals process, which includes allowing people to request a separate medical review of their case after the first 72 hours, following a mandatory reassessment of the case by the CDC.
According to US law, the CDC already has the authority to detain, medically examine, and release people arriving into the U.S. or traveling between states who are suspected of carrying certain diseases.
But Fisher believes the expansion of symptoms that are required to be reported is excessive.
“We should not be afraid to travel if we’ve got a skin condition or we’ve got a cough because we have allergies or we’ve got inflammatory bowl disease and have to go to the bathroom a lot,” she said.
“If the public doesn’t push back in terms of expressing concern about this expansion of police authority, then this will become law.”
Fisher also believes health officials may pressure detained persons into getting vaccines or other medical interventions without fully informed consent.
The NPRM itself mentions a recent outbreak of measles in Orange County, California in Dec. 2014, and that health officials could potentially offer preventive medications or vaccines to people who may have been exposed to measles. However, the CDC says, “No vaccines would be administered without consent of adults or permission of parents or guardians for minors.”