The rapid spread of influenza during the 2012-13 season brought a series of public health challenges and corresponding response efforts. For decades, responses to annual flu have been undertaken routinely without extensive legal intervention. With the recent declaration of states of public health emergencies in Boston (January 9, 2013) and New York State (January 12, 2013), however, the legal baseline is changing. Propelled by a slate of state and local emergency declarations during the 2009-10 H1N1 pandemic, public officials are beginning to show cause for the issuance of formal emergency declarations in support of flu response efforts. The legal effects of these types of declarations are profound. Public and private actors are given significant, expedited public health powers. Scarce resources like vaccines can be more efficiently allocated. Laws relating to licensure, scope of practice, and liability can be effectively waived. Though originally conceptualized and once reserved for catastrophic, long-term health-related or bioterrorism events, public health emergency declarations are evolving to address temporary impacts on health care and public health services arising annually from flu outbreaks. This commentary explores the changing nature of public health emergencies and their current and potential impact on the provision of healthcare services in response to national or regional threats to the public's health.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law