Law and Policy on Zika Preparedness and Response

A new resource published on February 16, 2017, by the CDC’s Public Health Law Program described and commented on law and policy responses to the Zika virus outbreak. As of February 22, 2017, 5,041 cases of Zika virus disease had been reported in the United States and Washington, DC, and another 37,447 had been reported in US territories, such as Puerto Rico. As cases of Zika have been increasingly reported in the United States, Zika preparedness and response has become greater public health concern and an increasing public health law issue.


Zika infection during pregnancy can cause certain serious birth defects. As of February 7, 2017, 1,455 pregnant women in the United States and Washington, DC, and another 3,156 in US territories had laboratory-confirmed Zika virus infection. As of February 7, 2017, a total of 1,047 pregnancies of women in the United States and Washington, DC, with laboratory-confirmed Zika virus infection were completed. Of those completed pregnancies, 43 resulted in life born infants with birth defects and five resulted in pregnancy losses with birth defects. Resources in the Zika legal clearinghouse address related reproductive health law.


The compilation of Zika-related legal resources includes an overview of state and territorial laws that have already been established to help fight Zika.


Legal scholars have suggested potential public health law strategies to combat Zika based on legal action related to other vector-borne diseases, bacterial and viral diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas. Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). One CDC resource analyzes executive orders and states of emergency related to West Nile virus, which is most commonly transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, to predict how such actions could inform policy makers on the Zika response. Another resource discusses the legal authority for, and operation of, day-to-day mosquito control, states of emergency, and other policy issues related to Zika. This resource also provides local perspectives gained from the 2009–2010 Key West outbreak of dengue virus, which is also transmitted by mosquitos.


In addition to the resources related to mosquito abatement laws and states of emergency, the CDC Public Health Law Program’s Zika: Selected Law and Policy Resources includes articles addressing other emerging law and policy issues. Articles discuss liability, privacy concerns, and travel restrictions.


See the CDC Public Health Law Program’s Zika: Selected Law and Policy Resources


See the CDC’s Zika Site


See also Medical Law Perspectives, May 2016 Report: Vectors of Risk: Zika, West Nile, and Similar Tick and Mosquito Disease Litigation