Identify basic facts about the disease and the aetiological agent from a standard reference text (ideally less than five years old). Examples include infectious disease textbooks such as: Heymann; Mandell; Topley and Wilson; Fields Virology (see references). There will be other key reference texts, including previous outbreaks and incidents,depending on the country and the disease. Sources on evidence-based medicine (see Appendix 3) are useful for checking what has already been done and to ensure that work is not repeated. Expertise on choosing reliablesources of information, such as bibliographic databases, websites and/or grey literature sources and advice on access to the full texts are usually available within Member States’ institution libraries.
Basic disease information from standard textbooks should be supplemented by searching published and grey literature (including outbreak reports and surveillance data, guidelines, disease fact sheets, etc). “A literature search should be a well-thought-out and organised search for all relevant literature published on a topic and is the most effective and efficient way to locate sound evidence on a subject”. (see http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice/217252.article). When time and resources are limited, a preliminary literature search should be undertaken to identify the key literature in the subject area, however there will inevitably be a trade-off between time and sensitivity. Particular attention should be given to filtering the results,i.e. choice of subjects, timeframe, and restricting to ‘review’ articles – most citation databases offer the facility to filter searches in this way. A trained information specialist or librarian can help to identify the best way to use these options in databases and retrieve the appropriate records according to the questions. There are also sites available with tutorials and guides providing help with the literature search, such as the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Library (see http://www.lshtm.ac.uk/library/help/help.html for further information). It should be acknowledged that a comprehensive systematic review will not be possible in the early stages of a rapid risk assessment; however the need for such a review should be considered at a later stage when time and resources permit.
The key steps in an effective literature search include:
Full articles should be used wherever possible rather than abstracts.
Further resources for effective literature searching are listed in the references (e.g. http://www.lshtm.ac.uk/library/help/help.html#resources). Member States public health services will often have their own resources and guides to doing literature searches.
These include key electronic publications such as ProMED and websites of national and international public health bodies (for outbreak reports and disease information). A list of suggested sources is included in Appendix 3. It will not be practical (or relevant) to search all of these in the early stages of a rapid risk assessment, however, as a minimum, the following should be searched: