Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Webinar: Ebola & The Law



# 8945


This afternoon The Network for Public Health Law, CDC’s Public Health Law Program (PHLP), and the American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) held a 90 minute webinar on legal issues surrounding the possible importation of Ebola into the United States. 


Among the topics discussed were legal issues that might arise when infected individuals enter the United States, and the powers and duties health department personnel would have if an Ebola outbreak occurred in the U.S.

While stressing that there are no reasons to fear that Ebola could spread significantly in the United States,  Moderator Matthew Penn explained that the legal issues surrounding Ebola are sometimes complicated, and that `legal preparedness’ is an important part of  public health preparedness.


The participants of the expert panel included:


  • Matthew Penn, M.L.I.S., J.D., Director, Public Health Law Program, Office for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Confirmed)


  • Brian Bird, M.S.P.H., D.V.D., Ph.D., Veterinary Medical Officer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases
  • Jane Jordan, J.D., Deputy General Counsel/Chief Counsel for Health Affairs and Acting Vice President for Governmental Affairs, Emory University Hospital
  • James Hodge, Jr., J.D., L.L.M., Director, the Network for Public Health Law — Western Region at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

The slides (and later today, the audio) for this webinar are available at: 



Although no public health emergency exists in the United States at this time, some of the legal issues that need to be considered, include:





Although `Ebola-centric’ this seminar deals with the same issues that would come to the fore during any serious infectious disease outbreak.


One of the `hot topics’ addressed (which I blogged about yesterday in CDC Quarantine Stations: Not What You May Think) regards the quarantining of those who may have been exposed to Ebola, but who are not ill. 


As the panel explained, `quarantines’ in this country have almost always referred to voluntary home quarantine – not the draconian kinds of quarantines depicted in the movies or popular fiction.


Anyone expecting a lot of specifics from today’s webinar will probably come away disappointed, as topics were discussed mostly in general terms. Laws vary from state to state, and the legal landscape would change dramatically if a public health emergency has been declared.


Still, if you are a hospital administrator, work in public health, or provide legal counsel to these types of venues, this presentation will provide plenty of food for thought.

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