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Epidemiology in the Classroom » How to Investigate an Outbreak
Suggestions for Classroom Use


At a minimum, before beginning a case study, students will need to know the basic scientific steps for investigating an outbreak. We recommend that teachers prepare for presenting an exercise by reading the case study section by section and attempting to answer the questions before reviewing the answer key. Here are some classroom approaches that have worked well:

To Present a case study

  • Divide the class into small work groups of five to ten students. Ask each group to assign a facilitator, a recorder, and a reporter.
  • Hand out Part I and call on individual students from the class at large to read the narrative and questions out loud.
  • Then have students work in their small groups to answer the questions.
  • Finally, have the groups report their responses to the whole class.
  • Move through the remaining sections in the same fashion.

Note that to avoid giving away answers, you should give students the parts of a case study sequentially, as indicated. The slides related to the case study could be shown during the work session or used in a wrap-up session.

To Evaluate What Students Have Learned

  • Use traditional testing on specific knowledge points regarding epidemiology and outbreak investigation
  • Use the sample problems and the national event problems found in Science Olympiad.

To enrich your class' study

  • Invite local experts to speak to the class. These could include a public health official from the local health department, a physician specializing in infectious diseases, or an infection control nurse from a local hospital.
  • Introduce students to the MMWR, CDC's weekly publication featuring breaking news in national and international health.
  • Have students access the articles found in Careers in Epidemiology and read, report on, and discuss them.
  • Have students read The Hot Zone, The Cobra Event, or other health-related literature.
  • Show the movie Outbreak.
  • Assign reports from materials found in the menu pick More Resources.
  • Have students research the pioneers of public health, such as John Snow, John Graunt, and William Farr.

Back to How to Investigate an Outbreak





This page last reviewed November 17, 2004

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