What are the International Health Regulations?

Online Q&A
18 March 2015

Q: What are the International Health Regulations?

A: The International Health Regulations, or IHR (2005), represent an agreement between 196 countries to work together for global health security. The regulations aim to help the international community prevent and respond to acute public health risks that have the potential to cross borders and threaten people worldwide.

In the globalized world, diseases can spread far and wide via international travel and trade. A health crisis in one country can impact livelihoods and economies in many parts of the world. Such crises can result from emerging infections like a new human influenza pandemic or the spread of Ebola virus disease.

The IHR can also apply to other public health emergencies such as chemical spills, leaks and dumping, or nuclear melt-downs. The IHR aim to limit interference with international traffic and trade while ensuring public health through the prevention of disease spread.

The IHR, which entered into force on 15 June 2007, require countries to strengthen their existing capacities for public health surveillance and response in order to be able to detect, report and control public health events. Timely detection and open reporting of public health events will help make the world more secure.

WHO is working closely with countries and partners to provide technical guidance and support to mobilize the resources needed to strengthen these capacities.

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