Introduction to Outbreak Investigation


Course Overview

Course Quality Rating


Course Description

This course is provided by Northwest Center for Public Health Practice and will require a secondary login and/or registration.

This course reviews living in an age where disease outbreaks are commonplace, including West Nile virus, beef recalls, and contaminated spinach. It provides specific steps to take in determine if there is an outbreak, who should be involved in the investigation, the science behind it all, and how to communicate findings to the public via the media.                                                                                                

Click the LAUNCH button below to start or be taken to the course.

Target Audience

This course is designed for frontline public health practitioners who need to understand the components of an outbreak investigation or who might be called upon to assist in an outbreak investigation.

This module may also be useful for healthcare providers in private practice, laboratorians, emergency response and bioterrorism preparedness planners who need to understand what an outbreak investigation consists of and who is typically involved. 

Learning Objectives

Having completed this course, the learner will be able to:

  1. Recognize indicators of a potential disease outbreak
  2. Describe the steps in conducting an outbreak investigation
  3. Identify key communication considerations during outbreak investigations
  4. Understand public health actions that may result from outbreak investigations

Council of Linkages Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals (COL)/COL Tier(s)

  1. Describes factors affecting the health of a community (e.g., equity, income, education, environment)
  2. Contributes to assessments of community health status and factors influencing health in a community (e.g., quality, availability, accessibility, and use of health services; access to affordable housing)
  3. Policy Development / Program Planning Skills
  4. Gathers information that can inform options for policies, programs, and services (e.g., secondhand smoking policies, data use policies, HR policies, immunization programs, food safety programs)
  5. Implements policies, programs, and services
  6. Communication Skills
  7. Solicits input from individuals and organizations (e.g., chambers of commerce, religious organizations, schools, social service organizations, hospitals, government, community-based organizations, various populations served) for improving the health of a community
  8. Community Dimensions of Practice Skills
  9. Recognizes relationships that are affecting health in a community (e.g., relationships among health departments, hospitals, community health centers, primary care providers, schools, community-based organizations, and other types of organizations)
  10. Collaborates with community partners to improve health in a community (e.g., participates in committees, shares data and information, connects people to resources)

Professional/Disciplinary Competencies

Public Health Preparedness Capabilities
Emergency Operations Coordination:

  1. Function 1: Conduct preliminary assessment to determine need for public activation

Public Health Surveillance and Epidemiological Investigation:

  1. Function 1: Conduct public health surveillance and detection
  2. Function 2: Conduct public health and epidemiological investigations

Public Health Preparedness and Response Core Competencies

  1. Model Leadership
  2. Maintain situational awareness
  3. Communicate and Manage Information
  4. Use principles of crisis and risk communications


Web-based, Flash presentation. This online module has an audio narration and interactive exercises and scenarios. This module should take about one hour to complete.

Credit /CEU

The University of Washington, School of Nursing is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.

Participants who successfully complete the course are eligible to receive a certificate for 1.0 contact hours for a processing fee of $35.


Not listed


This module requires Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Reader plugins to be installed.

Course Publication Date

None listed