Public health and aviation
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A disease, such as avian influenza poses a substantial risk to the global population because at some, unpredictable, point in the future a strain may emerge that transmits easily between humans. If this occurs, the aviation community may be asked by the World Health Organization (WHO)
to take action in order to assist in limiting its spread by air transport. Further, the economy of the aviation sector, and industries that rely on it, will undoubtedly be detrimentally affected as passengers choose to avoid flying to areas where there is a perceived increased risk of disease. For both reasons it is therefore necessary to plan for such an event, in order to mitigate the effects of a human outbreak.
ICAO is coordinating an international effort to bring together expertise from such organizations as the WHO, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI) and other partners to assist in preparedness planning, not only for pandemic influenza but for other communicable diseases or other types of public health event that might cause a public health emergency. ICAO gained experience in developing such guidelines during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
outbreak in 2003. Guidelines for that disease are provided in the link.
Guidelines for States have been agreed and these are available (see above). They are generic, in that they are applicable to many communicable diseases, not only influenza, and can form the basis for management of other types of public health event e.g. a nuclear powerplant explosion that may emit a radioactive plume that impinges on aircraft routes. They will continue to be modified over time as more information is gained on preparedness planning. They are based on the WHO International Health Regulations (2005)
In addition to guidelines that are directed towards States, additional guidelines have been written that are specific to airport and aircraft operators. These are based on the ICAO State guidelines and the WHO IHR (2005)
but are more detailed. They are available from the websites of Airports Council International
and International Air Transport Association
respectively. A United Nations (UN) web site provides information concerning the UN response
to avian influenza (H5N1) and the pandemic threat to humans.
ICAO runs a programme that assists States and other stakeholders to improve their preparedness plans, called the Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CASPCA).