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Investigating an Outbreak

Skill targeted: Decision-making

Launching an outbreak investigation requires planning and strategy. In public health, CDC disease detectives use a series of steps to answer three key questions, “what is the problem?, what is the cause? and what can we do about it?”. CDC disease detectives and other public health professionals use information and data to make decision throughout the investigation. Sometimes, the data is not always easy to read. So, disease detectives use a variety of strategies and studies to try to identify the cause of health and disease. Because every scenario is different, it is important for them to think critically about how to interpret and use the results to solve the problem.

In this section, students use research, engineering, and communication strategies to respond to outbreak scenarios like a disease detective.

Students will learn how to:

  • Synthesize empirical data for the purpose of assessing need and risk
  • Develop evidence-based explanations regarding cause and effect
  • Prioritize operational tasks to achieve solutions
  • Compare prevention and intervention strategies

For background information on how CDC investigates outbreak, please review CDC’s Principles of Epidemiology, 3rd Edition: Lesson 6: Investigating an Outbreak:

Activities