Canada and the International Health Regulations (IHR): Reporting


Assessing and notifying the World Health Organization (WHO) of potential Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC)

What is a PHEIC?

The term Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) is defined in the International Health Regulations (IHR (2005), as “an extraordinary event which is determined, as provided in these Regulations:

  • to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease; and
  • to potentially require a coordinated international response”.

How to identify a potential PHEIC

Assessments and notifications are the responsibility of Canada's IHR National Focal Point in collaboration with its federal, provincial and territorial partners. The IHR Annex 2 Decision Instrument and supporting document WHO Guidance for the Use of Annex 2 of the IHR give direction regarding specific diseases that require notification to the WHO. They also provide questions to be asked in assessing whether events or diseases may qualify as a potential PHEIC. If the answer is yes to two or more of the following four questions, the WHO must be notified:

  1. Is the public impact of the event serious?
  2. Is the event unusual or unexpected?
  3. Is there a significant risk of international spread?
  4. Is there a significant risk of international trade or travel restrictions?

How to report in Canada

In Canada, any urgent public health event must be reported by a province or territory to PHAC or Health Canada, which then has 48 hours to conduct a public health assessment, working in collaboration with the reporting province or territory and the IHR National Focal Point. If it is determined that the event is a potential PHEIC, pursuant to Article 6 of the IHR, the IHR National Focal Point Office must notify the WHO within 24 hours of the assessment of public health information. Information shared with the WHO may include public health information such as case definitions, laboratory results, source and type of risk and numbers of cases and deaths as well as details of any health measures employed in response to the event.

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