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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2003: Volume 7/ Issue 22 Article 2
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 7, Issue 22, 29 May 2003

Citation style for this article: Intergovernmental working group to take forward revision of the International Health Regulations. Euro Surveill. 2003;7(22):pii=2235. Available online:

Intergovernmental working group to take forward revision of the International Health Regulations

Editorial team (, Eurosurveillance editorial office

The 56th World Health Assembly, which convened 19-28 May 2003, has decided to establish and intergovernmental working group open to all member states to review and recommend a draft revision of the International Health Regulations (1, 2).

The Assembly urged member states to establish immediately a national standing task force or equivalent group and, within it, to designate an official or officials having operational responsibilities and accessible at all times by telephone or electronic communication, to ensure speed, particularly during emergencies, of both reporting to the World Health Organization (WHO) and consultation with national authorities when urgent decisions must be made.

Collaboration, when appropriate, with veterinary, agricultural and other relevant agencies involved in animal care in the research on, and planning and implementation of, preventive control measures was also urged.

The director general of the WHO has been requested by the Assembly to take into account reports from sources other than official notifications, to validate these reports according to established epidemiological principles, and to alert, when necessary and after informing the government concerned, the international community to the presence of a public health threat that may constitute a serious threat to neighbouring countries or to international health.

The latest developments in the revision of the international health regulations have been driven by the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic. In its resolution on SARS (2), the Assembly urged the director general to update and standardise guidelines on international travel, particularly air travel; to update surveillance guidelines, including case definitions, clinical and laboratory diagnosis, and management, and effective preventive measures; and to review and update the classification of 'areas with recent transmission'.

A useful document on the status of the SARS outbreak and lessons for the immediate future was prepared by WHO for presentation to the Assembly (

  1. World Health Organization. Revision of the International Health Regulations. WHA56.28. Resolution of the Fifty-sixth World Health Assembly, Geneva 19-28 May 2003. 28 May 2003 ( [accessed 5 June 2003]
  2. WHO Communicable Disease Surveillance & Response Situation Updates. SARS update 67 - SARS resolution approved, situation in Taiwan. 27 May 2003. ( [accessed 29 May 2003]
  3. World Health Organization. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). WHA56.29. Resolution of the Fifty-sixth World Health Assembly, Geneva 19-28 May 2003. 28 May 2003 ( [accessed 5 June 2003]

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