Today, the United States and most of the world face little danger from direct military assault from an opposing state. This threat has been supplanted with concerns about “gray area” challenges that face the global community. Emerging security threats such as terrorism, drug trafficking, and environmental degradation differ significantly from traditional statecentric paradigms both in their causes and the policies designed to ameliorate them.
The increasing transnational threat of infectious disease deserves special attention within this context of the evolving definition of security in the post–Cold War era. Statecentric models of security are ineffective at coping with issues, such as the spread of diseases that originate within sovereign borders, but have effects that are felt regionally and globally. Human security reflects the new challenges facing society in the 21st century. In this model, the primary object of security is the individual, not the state. As a result, an individual's security depends not only on the integrity of the state but also on the quality of that individual's life.
Infectious disease clearly represents a threat to human security in that it has the potential to affect both the person and his or her ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. In addition to threatening the health of an individual, the spread of disease can weaken public confidence in government's ability to respond, have an adverse economic impact, undermine a state's social order, catalyze regional instability, and pose a strategic threat through bioterrorism and/or biowarfare.