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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsDR.

Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsDAVID MUSCATELLO: Hello. I'm Dr. David Muscatello. And I'm going to give you an overview of the steps of an outbreak investigation.

Skip to 0 minutes and 17 secondsHealth officials involved in an outbreak investigation are typically epidemiologists or public health physicians that work for government departments of health, hospitals, the military, or even regional health authorities. When an outbreak is declared or suspected, the officials would first determine whether an outbreak exists. They would confirm the diagnosis of the suspected disease and define what qualifies as a case of the disease. That's called a case definition. They would, then, systematically find cases of the disease that they don't yet know about and make sure every case of disease has detailed information recorded to support the investigation, analysis, and response.

Skip to 1 minute and 9 secondsThe data are always summarised according to three main dimensions, person, time, and place. That is, the officials try to answer three questions, who is affected, when were they affected, and where were they affected. They try and work out who is most at risk, because that can guide what measures should be introduced to interrupt the outbreak and prevent ongoing transmission. They do this to understand why they are affected, because this might allow them to understand how they can control the disease. They might, then, conduct what's known as an epidemiological study to find out why the outbreak occurred.

Skip to 1 minute and 54 secondsOnce they've done this, they would use the knowledge gained to introduce measures to control the outbreak and to communicate what they've learnt and to prevent outbreaks in the future. For example, during the Ebola epidemic in 2014 in Africa, it was found that the cultural practise of washing bodies after death increased the risk of Ebola transmission. One of the challenges of controlling the outbreak was finding culturally sensitive ways of preventing transmission of the disease.

Steps of outbreak investigation

In this presentation, you will learn about who is involved in investigating outbreaks and the typical sequence of activities in an outbreak investigation. You will also hear about some important considerations in conducting the outbreak investigations.

After watching this video, discuss the answers to these questions in the comments section below:

Why is it important to look at which group of people have a greater risk of getting an infection during an outbreak?

Can you think of why some infectious diseases are easy to catch than others? What kind of things can be done to control an outbreak?

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This video is from the free online course:

Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Public Health Dimensions

UNSW Sydney