Global statistics indicate that worldwide airport passenger numbers have reached 6.3 billion in 2013, while global aircraft movement increased to 82 million in same year. Similarly, each year even larger volumes of international airport cargo are being shipped to various destinations worldwide over air. In 2013, 96 million metric tons of cargo have been shipped across the globe.
In this highly globalized world, airports play an ever-increasing role in safeguarding global health security. The International Health Regulations (2005) contain obligations of States Parties in relation to routine prevention and control measures and response to events at designated airports that may constitute a public health event of international concern. Such events based on public health hazards can range from infectious diseases to those related to food safety, phytosanitation or animal health, and chemical and radionuclear safety.
Under the above mentioned provisions of the IHR, it is required that designated airports have capacities to ensure a safe environment for travellers using the facilities, including potable water supplies, eating establishments, flight catering facilities, public washrooms and appropriate solid and liquid waste disposal services. Competent authorities are required to conduct inspections, provide vector control programmes, supervise service providers, including monitoring and supervising the application of sanitary measures. If evidence is found, disinfection, decontamination or removal and safe disposal of any contaminated water or food should be carried out. Routine and emergency public health measures and required health documents are necessary to ensure that conveyances and facilities at airports are kept free from sources of infection and are important with regard to the potential for international spread of disease, as outlined in the IHR.
If clinical signs or symptoms and information based on fact or evidence of public health risk is found on board conveyances on an international voyage, the competent authority shall apply control measures at the point of entry, or, if not able to carry out the required measures, the competent authority shall, nevertheless allow the departure of the aircraft, subject to informing the competent authority at the next known point of entry of the evidence found and the control measures required.
Health measures taken pursuant to the IHR shall be carried out so as to avoid injury and as far as possible discomfort to persons, or damage to the environment in a way which impacts on public health, or damage to baggage, cargo, containers, conveyances, goods or postal parcels. Additionally, States Parties should further establish national plans for surveillance and response, considering their activities at designated airports.
Considering intensity of air traffic, passengers and cargo transported every day across international borders via air, this task becomes progressively demanding, requiring coordinated efforts of various sectors present at the airport premises (public health, border control, customs, transportation, communication, etc.).