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International law and infectious diseases.
  1. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London

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    International law and infectious diseases. David P Fidler. (Pp 364; price not stated). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-19-826851-3

    Infectious diseases are usually considered from the view point of the human populations affected, the diseases that are caused, and the biology of the micro-organisms. Microbiologists and epidemiologists seldom consider the political dimensions of their activities. This book outlines the ways in which international law has attempted to deal with the spread of microbial diseases. Consideration is not only in terms of international health regulations, but also of international trade law and international environmental law. There is a brief account of the history of international law in the control of infectious diseases.

    In the current context of globalisation of international traveller trade, not to mention the possible emergence of bioterrorism, it is important that the role of international law is better understood. Central to the book is the concept ofmicrobialpolitik. This represents a mixture of the dynamics of international relations and the special dynamic produced by the challenges produced by pathogenic microbes. In essence, this can be illustrated by considering the tension between the burden on trade and economic development resulting from health concerns and the fear of the spread of infectious diseases. Historically, this was well illustrated by cholera, but in the modern world other diseases, both animal (for example, BSE) and human (for example, HIV infection) give rise to similar concerns. Thus, we have two dynamics. Firstly, the impact of infectious disease on international relations and, secondly, the impact of international regulations on the spread and control of disease.

    As globalisation accelerates, those of us concerned with the health of populations have become increasingly aware that our local concerns are set in a global context. This text provides the framework for our understanding of the ways in which international law and international health regulations can help or hinder our attempts to control the spread of infections. This is a book that departments of public health should have.

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