English government consults on new law to reduce spread of infection

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 05 April 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:715
  1. Susan Mayor
  1. London

    Powers to reduce the risk of serious threats to public health should be strengthened, the English government has indicated, in a consultation paper designed to update legislation to take account of recent developments such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) as well as chemical and radiation hazards.

    The government's proposals are designed to update the current law—the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act, 1984—which gives local authorities powers to prevent and control the spread of infectious disease. The government proposes that these powers be updated, with more modern and flexible provisions that can apply to contamination by chemicals and radiation as well as infectious diseases.

    “Infectious diseases were once seen as a problem that would disappear in the foreseeable future. The emergence of new diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and SARS, and the re-emergence of old diseases, such as tuberculosis, have shown that that is not the case,” the consultation paper warns.

    To cope with these challenges, the paper recommends supplementing current powers that allow an infected person to be medically examined and detained in hospital …

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