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Frequent Problems with writing an Outbreak Investigation Report

Last modified at 10/28/2010 9:11 PM by Lisa Lazareck


After an investigation, by the time the cause of the outbreak has been identified, the control measures have been undertaken, or the outbreak is over, the members of the OCT are already involved in other activities. Because other urgent priorities arise, investigators think that the outbreak report can wait. The report writing is delayed and sometimes, the delay is so long that investigators feel that the report is not anymore relevant; thereby there is a risk that a report will not be written or finalized.

However it is the duty of the investigators to document the outbreak and inform colleagues and policy makers about what actions have been taken to prevent future outbreaks. It would be unacceptable to have a similar outbreak and not using previous experience to control it because the report is not available.

Therefore, it is essential to write the outbreak report as soon as possible, and in the worst case, even if there is a delay in finalising it, it should be written and made available for those who would need it in the future. The main target group is partners in the field.


In all steps of the outbreak investigation, confidentiality should be respected. This also applies to the report. Confidentiality should be respected for individuals (e.g. patients) and for commercial businesses. The report should not include information that can directly or indirectly identify individuals or companies. We should be particularly careful with the documents included in the annexes and avoid including minutes of meetings which are too detailed and thereby putting at risk the confidentiality of individuals or commercial businesses.


Legal issues often arise when deciding who owns the data, the report and who should have access to the information. The prosecuting agencies may deem the information to be confidential. However, health authorities have the duty to provide the public with information. The balance between respect of confidentiality and providing information for preventing further cases or future outbreaks is sometimes difficult to find.