International Health Regulations

World Health Organization (WHO):

The International Health Regulations (IHR) are a legally binding international agreement to prevent the international spread of disease which was adopted in 1969, and revised in May 2005. The 2005 revision of the Regulations entered into force on 15 June 2007. The agreement significantly contributes to global public health security by providing a new framework for the coordination of the management of events that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern, and will improve the capacity of all countries to detect, assess, notify and respond to public health threats.
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 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), or a new human influenza pandemic. 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.

For further information see the WHO homepage (English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese) the frequently asked questions about the IHR English or the homepage of the WHO Lyon Office for International Health Regulations Coordination English

International Health Regulations and the Travel and Tourism Sector:

There are several reasons why the IHR are important for travel and tourism:

  • First adopted by WHO Member States in 1969, the old IHR applied to only three diseases: cholera, yellow fever, and plague. Travel and trade have increased significantly over the 35 years since the last major revision. The updated rules are designed to prevent and protect against the international spread of diseases, while minimizing interference with world travel and trade.

  • The extent of international travel and trade in the modern world presents an extraordinary challenge when it comes to the spread of communicable diseases. While health measures to control the spread of the disease at borders remain one important element of the Regulations, evidence shows that rapid response at the source as well as fast and sincere reporting play an important role when it comes to preventing the spread of communicable diseases. In this context, UNWTO conducted the workshop “Communications and Incentives: The Importance of Fast and Sincere Reporting”. For further information please refer to the report of theworkshop. English

  • The IHR aim at preventing the international spread of diseases while limiting unnecessary restrictions of international travel and trade. During the Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 no measures to restrict neither travel nor trade were recommended by WHO. As scientific evidence shows, those measures would not stop the spread of the virus.