Outbreaks, also called epidemics, are the incidence of a disease in excess of its expected occurrence. Outbreak investigation is epidemiologic research used to determine the cause of the outbreak and what remedial actions are required.
Communicable (or transferable) diseases related to food-borne, water-borne, and vector-borne outbreaks that can be passed from person to person while symptoms are active, are immediately investigated by Public Health officials. Inspectors also provide health advice and information, such as prevention and intervention strategies, to individuals afflicted with an illness that is part of the outbreak.
Strategies of healthcare authorities for dealing with disease outbreaks include preparedness, detection, response, and evaluation. Preparing for and recognizing new threats come with additional challenges. Unknown modes of transportation and aspects of its infectivity make it increasingly difficult to create a control plan and response. Detection is also reliant on the reporting systems of local, regional, provincial, national, and global communities. The collection of this data is immensely important for connecting commonalities and similarities between cases in order to classify the outbreak and initiate the control plan.
Once a response is in place and the outbreak has been controlled it is essential to evaluate the reaction to the outbreak and make improvement plans for future epidemics. Creating a research and response team for future outbreaks, ensuring reporting systems are being used and up-to-date, having containment methods and communication plans are all examples of improvement that can be made to a disease outbreak control plan upon evaluation.
Public Health Agency of Canada. (2004). Chapter 5 - Building Capacity and Coordination: National Infectious Disease Surveillance, Outbreak Management, and Emergency Response. Retrieved from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/sars-sras/naylor/5-eng.php#s5a2
Manitoba Health. (n.d.). Communicable Disease and Outbreak Control. Retrieved from http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/publichealth/environmentalhealth/protection/control.html