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HEALTH REPORT - New Rules for International Health Emergencies Take Effect

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This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Last month, new International Health Regulations went into effect. The new rules aim to contain the threats from diseases that may spread quickly from one country to another, such as influenza. Most countries in the world have agreed to treat the new rules as international law.

The first version of the International Health Regulations was passed in nineteen sixty-nine. It was designed to contain threats from serious infectious diseases that spread from one country to another. Those rules dealt with only four diseases : cholera, plague, yellow fever and smallpox.

Avoiding infection during the SARS scare in 2003
Avoiding infection during the SARS scare in 2003

Back then the International Health Regulations mainly involved the reporting of outbreaks of disease. They also established some controls to stop infected people from crossing borders and spreading disease.

The World Health Assembly passed the new International Health Regulations in two thousand five. The World Health Organization says the new version aims to battle infectious diseases at the source instead of waiting for them to reach borders. The new health rules deal with any disease or health event that could lead to a possible international emergency.

The rules are designed to avoid interference with trade and traffic around the world as much as possible.

The W.H.O. says communication will be greatly improved under the new rules. There will be special points of contacts within nations that will be responsible for reporting information to W.H.O. points of contact.

All World Health Organization member countries must honor these rules. W.H.O. officials say member countries are very likely to honor the rules because they all share an interest in avoiding major health crises. The officials also note that a country that does not obey the rules risks damage to its image inside its borders and internationally.

The International Health Regulations have a method for settling disputes between countries. Conflicts may result from different understandings of the rules or how they are to be carried out.

World health officials say the new health rules will help countries in several ways. The W.H.O. will provide guidance, technical support and help in getting financial assistance for public health emergencies.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. You can find other news about health at our Web site, www.unsv.com. I'm Bob Doughty.

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