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Investigating an Outbreak

Skill targeted: Decision-making

Launching an outbreak investigation requires planning and strategy. In public health epidemiologists and other public health experts use a series of steps to answer 3 key questions, “what is the problem?, what is the cause? and what can we do about it?”. They use information and data to make decisions throughout an outbreak investigation. Sometimes, the data is not easy to read. So, experts use a variety of strategies and studies to try to identify the source of an outbreak and what works to control it. Because every scenario is different, it is important for them to think critically about how to interpret and use 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 outbreaks, please review CDC’s Principles of Epidemiology, 3rd Edition: Lesson 6: Investigating an Outbreak: