Munson has taken the first step in developing a network that will
ensure health experts can work together in the future to protect the
public from catastrophic infections. As executive director of The
International Collaborative for Public Health Emergency
Preparedness, Munson, of Chicago, is sharing her knowledge and
experiences with health officials in the European Union and hopes to
expand the collaborative globally.
"It's no longer just
bioterrorism," said Munson, who worked for the Centers for Disease
Control's newly established Public Health Law Program after the
anthrax attacks of 2001. "It's natural disasters (Hurricane Katrina
and tsunamis) that need attention. Also, think about SARS (a viral
respiratory illness). Think about polonium 210 (a radioactive
material believed to have killed ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko
Munson's first meeting of The International Collaborative for
Public Health Emergency Preparedness in Prague, Czech Republic, in
March, was jointly hosted by The John Marshall Law School in
Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public
Health and Charles University in the Czech Republic.
Two months later, the Czech Republic was on the world stage
because Andrew Speaker, the Georgia lawyer infected with a
communicable strain of tuberculosis, flew from the Czech Republic to
Canada in May 2007 so that he could enter the United States "under
Speaker says he knew he had tuberculosis, but none of his doctors
forbade him from leaving. In mid-May, while traveling in Italy, he
was notified by CDC that he had a drug-resistant strain of
tuberculosis. CDC did nothing to help him or limit his travel
because an agency official said CDC didn't believe it had any legal
jurisdiction to do that.
The Speaker case, Munson argues, is a perfect example of why it
is important for public health agencies and governments to work
together to protect the population.
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"Law and public health have to work together or there's no
preparedness," she stresses.
The collaborative's first meeting had representatives from the
World Health Organization, the European Union and the United States.
Major addresses were delivered by Demetris Vryonides, head of the
Legal Unit of the European Union's Commission on Health and Consumer
Protection in Brussels; Roman Prymula, dean of the Czech University
of Defense and Czech delegate to the management board of the
European Center for Disease Control; and Alena Petrakova, from the
World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
The participants emphasized that lawyers, as well as professional
public health experts, need to be involved in the planning for
public health emergencies because of the effect the plans can have
on the legal rights and responsibilities of every citizen,
regardless of their nationality.
The consensus from the conference was that national and even
continental efforts alone would be ineffective in combating a
worldwide epidemic. Participants agreed that the question was not
whether, but when a "major" flu pandemic would again occur.
The program was the first step in Munson's work on cross-border
initiatives in public health.
"I believe we can reduce tragedies by improving awareness and
communications between countries," she said.
Munson most recently was a guest presenter at the Great Lakes
Border Initiative Conference on Preparedness at Niagara Falls in
[Text from file received from
The John Marshall Law School]
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