Global Public Health Surveillance, Governance, and Viral Sovereignty – International Society for Disease Surveillance


Wednesday, August 14, 2013 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EDT


ISDS Global Outreach Committee


Affan Shaikh, M.P.H, Senior Epidemiologist, Public Health Practice, LLC

Scott McNabb, Ph.D., M.S., Research Professor, Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health | Managing Partner, Public Health Practice, LLC 


Qanta Ahmed, M.D., Attending Sleep Disorders Medicine, Winthrop University Hospital | Associate Professor of Medicine, State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook, New York

Ziad Memish, M.D., Deputy Minister of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


Microbes carry no national passports; neither do they recognize geo-political boundaries or state sovereignty. Yet a recent violation of viral sovereignty has brought up unresolved governance issues, challenged ethical public health practice, and added unnecessary global security risk.  Viral sovereignty refers to a sovereign state’s ownership rights over pathogens found within national borders.  First coined in the wake of tensions rising from the Indonesian government’s decision to conditionally withhold samples of H5N1 avian influenza virus in early 2007, viral sovereignty has been interpreted both in a positive light as a guiding, ethical rule to govern control of modern pandemics on the one hand and a potential risk to global health security on the other.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) revised the International Health Regulations (IHR [2005]) to provide a global framework to prevent, protect against, control, and facilitate a public health response to the global spread of disease, its success firmly rests on the delicate balance of trust and transparency.  Current disputes now highlight the imbalance between respecting and trusting legitimate national sovereignty while complying with global transparency in reporting.

This webinar reviews the history and role of the IHR 2005.  In it, we discuss the rights and responsibilities of various parties for public health surveillance and global health security.  We also discuss the origins and implications of viral sovereignty.  And through two case studies, we point out the critical and current issues to be discusses and weigh the pros and cons of various options to move forward to greater global health security.

Learning Objectives

By the conclusion of this webinar, participants will be able to…

  • Describe the history and role of the International Health Regulations (IHR [2005])
  • Review the authority and obligations of National Ministries of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) for public health surveillance
  • Delineate national and global rights and responsibilities for public health surveillance
  • Define viral sovereignty and its impact on global health security
  • Illustrate a way forward

Join the conversation on twitter! Use the hashtag #ViralSovereignty


Global Public Health Surveillance, Governance, and Viral Sovereignty from ISDS on Vimeo.

Resource List 

This list of resources contains additional information on topics covered in the webinar.

IHR Information

For more information and past ISDS webinars on the International Health Regulations see the ISDS IHR Resource Page. 

ISDS 2012 Conference Abstracts: Identification and Assessment of Public Health Surveillance Gaps under the IHR (2005)

Certified Public Health (CPH) Recertification Credit Available:

You may earn 1 CPH re-certification credit for attending the live webinar or watching recorded webinars. If you would like to earn re-certification credits for attending the live event, please click the ‘Registration’ link above and complete the evaluation immediately following the webinar. If you wish to earn credit for watching the recording, you must view the recording, complete this evaluation, and write to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  and include the title of the webinar you watched. For either option, CPH re-certification credits are free for ISDS members (as a benefit of membership) and are $10/credit for non-ISDS members (click here to pay).