30 May 2014

Fridays from the Archives: Viral Sovereignty

Friday, May 30, 2014: Viral Sovereignty

Since the beginning of May, two cases of MERS-CoV have been identified in the United States. In addition to prompting concerns related to the symptoms and case-fatality rate of MERS, the spread of disease also renews interest in a relatively new concept, viral sovereignty.

Viral sovereignty is defined as  "a sovereign state's ownership rights over pathogens found within their border." The term was first coined in 2007 when Indonesia failed to share samples of the H5N1 virus, claiming that they had viral sovereignty over the samples. Similarly, with MERS, there was a delay between when researchers identified the pathogen and when they notified authorities at the Ministry of Health (MOH). These circumstances raise a slew of issues for public health as researchers struggle between supporting intellectual property rights and the ensuring health of the public.

Last August Scott JN McNabb, PhD, MS and Affan Shaikh, MPH presented on the intersection between International Health Regulations (IHRs) and viral sovereignty in the webinar Global Public Health Surveillance, Governance, and Viral Sovereignty. With additional contributions from Qanta Ahmed, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at SUNY Stony Brook, and Ziad Memish, MD, Deputy Minister of Public Health, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, this presentation provides a dynamic combination of context, anecdotes, scientific knowledge, and in-person experience.

To learn more about this webinar or to review the recording please see the ISDS webinar archive.

This post is part of the series Fridays from the Archives. You can access all posts in the series here.

Written by Becky Zwickl, MPH, ISDS Public Health Analyst (bzwickl@syndromic.org). 

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