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The international maritime traffic of people and goods has often contributed to the spread of pathogens affecting public health. The Maritime Declaration of Health (MDH), according to the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005), is a document containing data related to the state of health on board a ship during passage and on arrival at port. It is a useful tool for early detection of public health risks. The main objective of our study was to evaluate compliance with the model provided in the IHR, focusing on the format and degree of completion of MDH forms received at Spanish ports. We reviewed the content of 802 MDH forms submitted to nine Spanish ports between October 2014 and March 2015. Study results show that 22% of MDH forms presented did not comply with the recommended model and 39% were incomplete. The proportion of cargo ships with correct and complete MDH forms was lower than passenger ships; thus, the nine health questions were answered less frequently by cargo ships than passenger ships (63% vs 90%, p value < 0.001). The appropriate demand and usage of MDH forms by competent authorities should improve the quality of the document as a tool and improve risk assessment.


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