Infectious disease experts and the American Civil Liberties Union are questioning the policy to allow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and customs agents to detain travelers who look like they are suffering from bird flu. The MoU, which is reportedly available with Reuters, also allows Customs and Border Protection agents to provide passenger data to CDC.
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff signed this MoU in October. But HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson said it was not sinister, "We have had this agreement in place and it's to help CDC when there is a report of communicable diseases on an airplane," Pearson said. "It helps them quickly and efficiently to be able to locate passengers and to inform them that they may have been exposed to some kind of communicable disease, to reassure them and tell them how to get right channels to treatment." The memorandum mentions H5N1 avian influenza as well as some other diseases. Bird flu has rapidly spread across the world and the WHO estimates that it will reach America by this year-end. "CDC is authorized to isolate and/or quarantine arriving persons reasonably believed to be infected with or exposed to specified quarantinable diseases and to detain carriers and cargo infected with a communicable disease," the memo reads.