Copyright (c) 2004 Temple University of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education
Temple Law Review
SYMPOSIUM: SARS, PUBLIC HEALTH, AND GLOBAL GOVERNANCE: ARTICLE: ARE TRADITIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH STRATEGIES CONSISTENT WITH CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN VALUES?
77 Temp. L. Rev. 175
Mark A. Rothstein*
From November 2002 to July 2003, there were 8,098 probable cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome ("SARS") in twenty-nine countries, with 774 deaths. 1 The SARS epidemic demonstrated the capability of global economic and transportation systems to spread an infection thousands of miles within hours. It also demonstrated the challenges of using the traditional public health measures of surveillance, contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation in modern, interdependent, and population-dense societies.
In the absence of effective measures to prevent or treat SARS, travel restrictions and quarantine of potentially exposed individuals were some of the only public health measures available, and therefore assumed roles that were arguably disproportionate to their efficacy. "The impulse for aggressive quarantine is, of course, greatest for those contagious diseases whose terms of transmission remain poorly understood. Any and all precautions against its spread seem reasonable during such crises." 2 In the jurisdictions hardest hit by SARS, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam, quarantine and isolation were widely used. Although these and other measures ultimately succeeded in containing SARS, it is not clear that traditional public health measures, especially large-scale quarantine, would be as effective in the United States because, among other reasons, such a sweeping and restrictive government intervention might be widely perceived as inconsistent with American political, economic, and social values. The countries most affected by SARS are known for their communitarian values. The United States, which was largely spared by the SARS epidemic-and which may not be so fortunate ...
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