With a growing concern about the Ebola pandemic we now learn that in 2010 the Obama administration scrapped expanded airline regulations that would have allowed people with various diseases, including Ebola, to be detained and quarantined immediately at U.S. airports. The new regulations would have required airlines report ill passengers to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Air Transport Association (ATA) were against adding the ability of officials quarantining passengers for up to three days if suspected of having infectious diseases such as: pandemic flu, infectious tuberculosis, plague, cholera, SARS, smallpox, yellow fever, diphtheria or viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.
In 2007, after an Atlanta man with drug-resistant tuberculosis drew international attention to the potential risks posed by infected air travelers, CDC Director Julie Gerberding testified before Congress that the proposed regulations would improve the agency’s ability to identify exposed passengers quickly.
USA Today’s Alison Young in 2010 reported:
The Obama administration has quietly scrapped plans to enact sweeping new federal quarantine regulations that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention touted four years ago as critical to protecting Americans from dangerous diseases spread by travelers.
The regulations, proposed in 2005 during the Bush administration amid fears of avian flu, would have given the federal government additional powers to detain sick airline passengers and those exposed to certain diseases. They also would have expanded requirements for airlines to report ill passengers to the CDC and mandated that airlines collect and maintain contact information for fliers in case they later needed to be traced as part of an investigation into an outbreak.
Airline and civil liberties groups, which had opposed the rules, praised their withdrawal.
The Air Transport Association had decried them as imposing “unprecedented” regulations on airlines at costs they couldn’t afford. “We think that the CDC was right to withdraw the proposed rule,” association spokeswoman Elizabeth Merida said Thursday.
The American Civil Liberties Union had objected to potential passenger privacy rights violations and the proposal’s “provisional quarantine” rule. That rule would have allowed the CDC to detain people involuntarily for three business days if the agency believed they had certain diseases: pandemic flu, infectious tuberculosis, plague, cholera, SARS, smallpox, yellow fever, diphtheria or viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.