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Outbreak Terminology

Enteric Outbreak

An outbreak is suspected whenever there are a greater than usually expected number of cases with similar signs and symptoms in the same geographical area in a 24-hour period. ‘Enteric’ refers to an illness that affects the human intestines and results in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Many bacteria and some viruses and parasites are capable of producing enteric illness in people.

 

Respiratory Outbreak

An outbreak is suspected whenever there are a greater than usually expected number of cases with similar signs and symptoms in the same geographical area in a 24-hour period. ‘Respiratory’ refers to an illness that affects the human respiratory system and results in symptoms such as sore throat, cough, runny nose, nasal congestion and fever. Many bacteria, viruses and some parasites are capable of producing respiratory illness in people.

 

Case Definition

A ‘case definition’ is a means of classifying persons as “cases” or “non-cases” based on whether or not they meet the criteria  identified for the specific outbreak.  A new case definition will be created for each outbreak and generally includes a combination of signs, symptoms, dates, locations, etc. that define the illness at hand. A case definition can be altered as the outbreak progresses and further information is discovered.

A case definition example: “Any staff or camper presenting with 2 or more bouts/symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and cramps on or after July 10th; or any lab confirmed case

 

Line List

The ‘line list’ is an important tool in effective outbreak management. It is a means of collecting data that are pertinent to each individual case and the outbreak as a whole. It is essentially a database of rows and columns.  Each row represents a case and each column represents descriptive factors or clinical details (i.e. date of birth, onset date, symptoms, recovery dates, etc.).

There is a separate line list for campers and staff and each should be updated and faxed into the Health Unit daily before 12 noon, including weekends and holidays. This will reflect changes i.e. new cases added, updated status of ill cases, specimen results etc.

Note:  Only persons who meet the criteria set out by the ‘case definition’ should be added to the line list.

The Health Unit investigator reviews the new information daily and will call to confirm that the data were received. The daily reporting of data is essential to decision making throughout the management of the outbreak, including when to declare the outbreak over. The information provided on the line list is confidential client information and attention must be given to the transmission of information. Updated line lists should be faxed in to the health unit daily using our confidential fax line, (705) 733-7738.

 

Incubation Period

The ‘incubation period’ refers to the time lapse between exposure to an infectious agent and the first appearance of clinical symptoms. Incubation periods can range from hours to days depending on the agent that you are infected with. Refer to Figure A.

Period of Communicability

The ‘period of communicability’ refers to the time during which an infectious agent can be transmitted directly or indirectly from an infected person to another person, from an infected animal to humans, or from an infected person to animals. Periods of communicability will range depending on the agent that you are infected with.
Refer to Figure A.

Figure A – Incubation Period & Period of Communicability

         Incubation Period

Figure A provided by: Texas A&M University, The Partnership for Environmental Education and Rural Health (PEER), http://peer.tamu.edu/curriculum_modules/Properties/module_1/lesson.htm 

Latent Period

The time from initial infection until the start of infectiousness.

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