International Health Regulations (2005)

As of January 2024, an estimation of over 7 million COVID-19 deaths have been recorded. We live in an era where public health risks and global disease outbreaks (as seen with COVID-19) are often unpredictable, requiring multiple responses. This is precisely where the International Health Regulations come into play. Originally known as the International Sanitary Regulations (ISR 1951), it was established in 1951 as WHO’s first set of infectious disease regulations, in response to the deadly epidemics that once spread through Europe. It was later adopted as the International Health Regulations, by the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of WHO that is attended by all of the WHO member states. At the time, the regulations only covered six diseases: cholera, plague, relapsing fever, smallpox, typhoid, and yellow fever. It has been revised over the years, covering even more diseases than ever before, and its last revision in 2005, gave it the name IHR (2005). The IHR (2005) is an essential instrument of international law that legally binds 196 countries, with 194 WHO member states. The role of the regulations is to define a country’s rights and obligations when dealing with public health events and emergencies that have the potential to cross borders, as seen with the infamous COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous IHR emergency communities are set in place to deal with a particular global outbreak or pandemic. Overall, IHR is a pivotal tool for global cooperation, in efficiently combating disease outbreaks.  


CDC. “International Health Regulations (IHR) .” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019,

WHO. “International Health Regulations.”, 2005,

“World Health Assembly.”,

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