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Principles of outbreak investigation 

Principles of outbreak investigation
Principles of outbreak investigation

Kumnuan Ungchusak

and Sopon Iamsirithaworn

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date: 16 May 2022

Knowledge of medicine and diseases has increased enormously over the last few decades. With the advance of knowledge, public health services in many countries can implement effective prevention programmes, and are able to protect people from many avoidable illnesses and death. However, people around the world still suffer and die from various known and unknown outbreaks of disease. Some outbreaks are old diseases that have re-emerged, some are newly identified or emerging, and some have been deliberately started (Fig. 6.4.1). Outbreaks can occur anywhere, from a very remote area where no health facility exists to nosocomial outbreaks in a very sophisticated hospital where hundreds of health personnel are employed. It is a challenge for the government and public health professionals of all countries to detect and control these outbreaks as early as possible. Outbreak investigations also provide the opportunity to discover new aetiological agents, to understand factors that promote the spread of the diseases, and to identify the weaknesses of existing prevention and health programmes. For these reasons, all public health professionals should have the ability to detect, conduct, or play essential roles in supporting outbreak investigations.

This chapter provides a definition and describes the objectives of outbreak investigation, the methods for planning and conducting an investigation, and what needs to be done after the investigation has been completed. For simplicity, mainly examples of communicable disease investigations have been discussed; however, the concepts and principles can be applied to non-communicable diseases as well.

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