Many 21st-century observers explain international efforts to control
infectious diseases as a function of globalization and recent transformations
in international commerce, transportation, and human migration. However, these
contemporary global health initiatives can be more fully understood by also
exploring the origins of international health organizations and regulations,
which were initially dedicated exclusively to stemming the tide of infectious
epidemics. This article reviews 3 eras of international approaches to controlling
infectious diseases (1851-1881, 1881-1945, and 1945 to the present) and concludes
by assessing how nations have a strong fiscal and humanitarian incentive to
invest in infectious disease control programs and infrastructures in and beyond
their own borders.
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