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Summary

Law No. 137 of 1958, as amended by Law No. 55 of 1979, regulates the powers of public health authorities in Egypt in the event of an infectious disease outbreak.  Additionally, Presidential Decree No. 268 of 1975 defines the Ministry of Health’s mission and objectives.  The World Health Organization has worked closely with the Egyptian Ministry of Health (MOH) to establish a cooperation strategy to prevent and control public health crises. The MOH posted on its official website an action plan to combat infectious diseases in public places, including schools and medical facilities.  While no cases of Ebola have been reported in Egypt, the MOH has issued a precautionary announcement to Egyptians.

I.  Structure of Public Health Crisis Management System 

Egypt is a low-income, developing country with a per capita GDP of about LE47,050 (approximately US$6,600).[1]  The country is divided into twenty-seven governorates.  The major provider of health care services is the Ministry of Health (MOH).  Health services offered by the MOH are free of charge to all Egyptian citizens.  Those services are subsidized by the Egyptian government.  The MOH supervises a nationwide health care system that includes outpatient clinics and urban hospitals.[2]  The current structure of the health care system was developed during the 1960s under the administration of President Nasser, who adopted socialist economic policies.[2]

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II.  Powers of Public Health Authorities 

Law No. 137 of 1958, as amended by Law No. 55 of 1979 (Combating Contagious Diseases), defines the term “infectious disease” and regulates the powers of public health authorities in the event of an infectious disease outbreak.[4]  Article 6 of the Law allows health authorities in any province of the country to require all individuals, including adults, to be vaccinated against any infectious diseases.[5]  Article 10 grants the Minister of Health the power to issue necessary decisions to monitor and quarantine specific individuals, including individuals coming from abroad if they are suspected of carrying an infectious disease.[6]  Furthermore, article 12 requires that any individuals suspected of carrying an infectious disease be reported to health authorities.[7]  Article 14 also authorizes health authorities to adopt all measures deemed necessary to curb a public health crisis.[8]  Finally, article 15 permits members of law enforcement agencies to inspect houses and places where individuals infected with infectious diseases might be located.[9]  

In addition to Law No. 137 of 1958, there is another law governing the area of public health.  Presidential Decree No. 268 of 1975 defines the mission and objectives of the MOH.  Article 1 of the decree provides that the Ministry’s main mission is to protect the health of all Egyptian citizens through preventive and curative services at a centralized level.[10]

The MOH has an array of objectives, which include the following: (1) shaping national health care policies; (2) recording health care data and conducting economic health studies; (3) providing centralized health services, including central laboratories, pharmaceutical services, and manpower training; (4) monitoring the quality of medicine; (5) offering effective management during public health crises; (6) administrating health services and units; and (7) coordinating with domestic medical units on the local level in all governorates.[11]

The administrative structure of the MOH consists of the following departments: (1) health care and nursing, (2) protective affairs and disease, (3) birth control, (4) treatment, (5) training and research, (6) technical support, and (7) provincial health affairs.[12]  

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III.  Transparency of Public Health Crisis Management System 

According to an action plan to combat infectious disease issued by the MOH, the Ministry is required to report any outbreak of infectious diseases in public places.  The Ministry is also responsible for warning the public about the outbreak and decontaminating the affected places.[13]

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IV.  Cooperation with the World Health Organization

Egypt is a member of the World Health Organization (WHO), to which Egypt is obligated to report any outbreak, emergence, or reemergence of infectious diseases.[14]  The WHO has also worked closely with the Egyptian MOH to establish a cooperation strategy to assist in the prevention of infectious disease outbreaks.  The WHO’s local field office in Cairo, Egypt, has contributed to the Cairo Agenda for Action on Aid Effectiveness.  According to a WHO progress report, the organization is currently working with health-related sectors, including the Ministry of Agriculture, to prevent an outbreak of the H5N1 influenza virus.  It is also sharing expertise with the MOH to prevent and control the spread of hepatitis.[15] 

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V.  Response to the Outbreak of Infectious Diseases

The MOH has posted on its official website an action plan to combat infectious diseases in public places, including schools and medical facilities.[16]  According to a WHO report, the MOH is responsible for providing all necessary immunizations and vaccinations to control and prevent the spread of infectious diseases.  This strategy has led to a decline in the number of people infected with such diseases as H1N5 and hepatitis.[17] 

In an effort to monitor any possible outbreak, the Egyptian health authorities have joined the regional rotavirus surveillance network and launched a national rotavirus surveillance program.  The MOH has also established similar surveillance programs for other viruses such as measles, rubella, haemophilus influenza type B, hepatitis, and tuberculosis.[18]

Finally, the MOH has established an active program to control any outbreak of infectious diseases in health care facilities.  The Ministry has provided health care facilities across the country with necessary guidelines to deal with such public health crises.[19]

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VI.  Response to the Ebola Virus Outbreak

While no cases of Ebola have been reported in Egypt, in response to this global health threat the MOH has issued an announcement urging people to take the following precautionary measures:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water
  • Avoid touching any animals, especially sick ones
  • Avoid touching any sick person or coming in contact with his/her bodily fluids
  • Avoid touching surfaces that have come in contact with the body fluids of a sick person[20]
  • Avoid making unnecessary trips to West African countries where Ebola is active[21] 

The Ministry has also required international airports to report suspicious cases to the airport medical centers and determined that passengers entering Egypt from countries with suspected infectious disease outbreaks should be quarantined and have their temperature taken.[22]

Prepared by George Sadek
Senior Legal Analyst
February 2015


[1] The World Factbook: Egypt, Central Intelligence Agency, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/eg.html (last updated June 22, 2014).

[2] Ravi P. Rannan-Eliya, Claudio Blanco-Vidal & A.K. Nandakumar, The Distribution of Healthcare Resources in Egypt: Implications for Equity (Boston, Harvard School of Public Health, 2000), https://www. hsph.harvard.edu/ihsg/publications/pdf/No-81.PDF.

[3] Hassouna Ali & Abou Ali, Legal Analysis of the Health Sector Policy Reform Program Assistance in Egypt, Technical Report No. 5, vol. IV (USAID Partnerships for Health Reform Project, Aug. 1996), http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pnach250.pdf.

[4] Law No. 137 of 1958, al-Jarīdah al-Rasmīyah, vol. 27, 11 Sept. 1958, amended by Law No. 55 of 1979 (Combating Contagious Diseases), al-Jarīdah al-Rasmīyah, vol. 47, 22 Nov. 1979.

[5] Id. art. 6.

[6] Id. art.10.

[7] Id. art 12.

[8] Id. art 14.

[9] Id. art 15.

[10] Presidential Decree No. 268 of 1975, al-Jarīdah al-Rasmīyah, vol. 2615, 23 Mar. 1975.

[11] Id. art. 2; see also, Objectives of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Health [MOH], http://www.mohp.gov. eg/sites/minister/vision/default.aspx (in Arabic; last visited Oct. 16, 2014).

[12] The Administrative Structure of the Ministry of Health, MOH, http://www.mohp.gov.eg/about/orgchart/ default.aspx (in Arabic; last visited Oct. 16, 2014).

[13] Health Action Plan to Combat the Outbreak of Infectious Diseases, al-Watan (Oct. 10, 2012), http://www. masress.com/elwatan/59802.   

[14] World Health Organization [WHO], Country Cooperation Strategy for WHO and Egypt 2010–2014 (2010), http://www.who.int/countryfocus/cooperation_strategy/ccs_egy_en.pdf?ua=1.

[15] WHO, Country Cooperation Strategy at a Glance: Egypt (Mar. 23, 2013), http://www.who.int/country focus/cooperation_ strategy/ccsbrief_egy_en.pdf.

[16] MOH, Guidelines on Combating the Outbreak of Infectious Diseases (2d ed. 2008), http://www.mohp. gov.eg/programs/InfectFight/DocLib/part11.pdf (in Arabic).

[17] Law No. 137 of 1958, al-Jarīdah al-Rasmīyah, vol. 27, 11 Sept. 1958, p. 15.

[18] Id. p. 16.

[19] Presidential Decree No. 268 of 1975, al-Jarīdah al-Rasmīyah, vol. 2615, 23 Mar. 1975.

[20] MOH, Important Guidance on the Ebola Virus, MOH, http://www.mohp.gov.eg/DocLib/ ebola7.pdf (in Arabic; last visited Oct. 16, 2014).

[21] Press Release, MOH, Health: Tightening Quarantine Measures for the Port of Egypt on Those Arriving from Guinea Following the Outbreak of the Ebola Epidemic, Apr. 3, 2014, http://www.mohp.gov.eg/DocLib/ebola6.pdf

[22] Id.

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Last Updated: 06/09/2015