police power

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The authority conferred on public health officials by laws and local regulations to take action to protect the health of the public. It includes the power to detain persons diagnosed with contagious diseases that endanger others and has in the past included the authority to enter and search premises to seize persons who have or are in contact with certain contagious diseases. Overzealous use of police powers in the early 20th century, to search homes and seize healthy child contacts of cases of diphtheria, typhoid, or poliomyelitis, received unfavorable publicity that sometimes gave public health authorities an unsavory reputation. Police power is seldom invoked today but has been used occasionally to restrain irresponsible promiscuous individuals with diagnosed HIV disease.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology.

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