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How is an outbreak investigated?

Lesson Plan
Graphic of house and calendar.

In module 8, students learn how public health experts follow steps of an outbreak investigation and communicate their findings. Using data from an outbreak at a summer camp, students develop hypotheses, analyze data, and design tailored communication materials for different audiences. Students also learn the collaborative roles of different public health experts, including epidemiologists, infection prevention specialists, behavioral scientists, biostatisticians, health communication specialists, laboratory scientists, and public health nurses.

Educational Video for Students

This video introduces students to the concepts they will be exploring in CDC NERD Academy Module 8: How is an outbreak investigated? This video explains the basics of investigating a disease outbreak and why it is important. Students learn about outbreak investigations and how the public health experts from previous modules work together to address and prevent the spread of disease. The video describes a hypothetical disease outbreak and how a public health investigation team responds by constructing a case definition, collecting information on confirmed and possible cases, and looking for patterns in the data. Students then learn how an outbreak investigation can help identify the source of an outbreak, and how the public health team can implement control and prevention strategies to address the current outbreak and prevent further spread. After this video, students will be able to answer the question, “How is an outbreak investigated?” and they will be ready to participate in an outbreak investigation activity and group discussion.

Activity Demonstration for Teachers

This instructional video guides educators through the activities of Module 8: How is an outbreak investigated? The video provides a brief explanation of the activities students will participate in for this Module, including following all of the steps of an outbreak investigation from Modules 1-7 and using findings to develop communication materials. It shows educators how to organize their classroom, prepare and distribute handouts, and group students for participation in the learning activity. The video explains how students will work together to collaboratively complete the hypothetical outbreak investigation and create communication strategies to share their findings with the public. The video provides suggested timing for the activity, guidance for class discussion, and tips for success.

Public Health Career Spotlight: Outbreak Team

During an outbreak investigation, public health experts work as a team. They each bring diverse backgrounds, specialized skills, and experiences that contribute to the overall goal of reducing the spread of disease.

Outbreak response team.

Download this poster and display in the classroom for reference and discussion during student activities.

DOWNLOADABLE Poster [406 KB, 1 Page, 508]

See the collection of public health career spotlights from all modules in this curriculum.

To learn more about public health STEM careers, visit See Yourself in a Public Health Career (cdc.gov).