Spurred by growing fears of a pandemic, such as could happen with bird flu, the World Health Organization adopted a new set of global health procedures Monday designed better to control outbreaks of dangerous diseases.
The new regulations, which were adopted by the annual meeting of the U.N. health agency's key decision-making body, will set out the "universally accepted rules of the game," said Guenael Rodier, WHO's head of communicable diseases surveillance and response.
"We hope to get a more secure world," Rodier said.
The regulations will empower WHO to restrict worldwide travel and commerce to and from affected areas. Countries now have 18 months to put the new procedures into national law.
The new rules outline the terms under which countries must notify disease outbreaks to WHO, including how quickly and details of the infection.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969