Despite significant reforms to state, tribal and local emergency laws over the past decade, regional legal responses to public health emergencies continue to be disparate and, at times, conflicting. Modern public health legal reforms offer an array of legal options for lawmakers and policy-makers, but do not always prescribe specific actions that legal and public health practitioners must take during emergencies. Rather, emergency laws generally present a menu of legal choices, often with little guidance for leaders making key decisions. This makes it challenging for public health leaders to ensure that the decisions they make during health emergencies– on issues including surge capacity, quickly spreading infectious diseases and allocation of scarce resources– fall within traditional legal norms.
The Network’s Primer outlines public health concerns related to the Zika virus and lays out current and anticipated legal preparedness and response issues internationally and in the United States. These include issues related to testing and screening, public health preparedness, and reproductive rights. This Primer is updated regularly as events develop, so be sure to check this page for new information.
Friday, March 18 from 1:00 -2:00 p.m. (ET). This webinar will provide an overview of the public health problem posed by Zika, discuss the domestic legal framework for addressing the virus, including a discussion of executive powers for mosquito abatement, and highlight ways to coordinate health care and public health legal preparedness efforts. View the playback.
The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection that is “spreading explosively” across Caribbean, South and Central American countries since an initial outbreak occurred last May in Brazil. Due to the serious health consequences of Zika virus to pregnant women and their unborn babies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an Alert Level 2 travel notice recommending special precautions for pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant.
The Network was contacted recently by a requestor who wanted more general information about Zika as well as information about emergency legal preparedness around a possible U.S. outbreak of the virus. The Network is working in real-time on these specific issues and was able to provide several helpful resources.
Legal authorities vary across states, tribal governments and localities during declared emergencies. As seen during the 2009-2010 H1N1 outbreak, jurisdictions may take divergent legal approaches in their responses to national or regional public health threats. Conflicting laws and overlapping jurisdictions further complicate key decisions on when or how to respond.
Public health officials may face many critical legal and policy decisions during public health emergencies, including:
The Network for Public Health Law can provide legal guidance, training and support to address these and other legal and policy issues in emergency preparedness. These issues may be addressed during non-emergencies through advance planning and education, innovative exercises and other training efforts. During emergency declarations, the Network can provide real-time legal guidance to help public health leaders as they respond and make critical decisions with potential legal ramifications.
For legal technical assistance and support with emergency legal preparedness and response:
You can also call your region to get legal assistance at:
The Network will not share your contact information with external parties without consent.
The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, please consult specific legal counsel. For more information on the type of legal assistance the Network can provide, please see frequently asked questions.