Outbreak Investigations

The Georgia Department of Public Health, Division of Public Health (DPH) in accordance with the Official Code of Georgia, Title 31-12-1, is "...empowered to conduct studies, research, and training appropriate to the prevention of disease..." All physicians, laboratorians, and other healthcare providers are required by law to immediately report any cluster of illnesses to the Division of Public Health. Clusters or outbreaks may be reported to the appropriate County Health Department or District Health Office, or to the DPH 24/7 reporting hotline, 1-866-PUB-HLTH (1-866-782-4584), or they may also be directly reported to the Acute Disease Epidemiology Section at the Division of Public Health at 404-657-2588.

The Acute Disease Epidemiology Section (ADES) is responsible for supporting the District Epidemiologists in outbreak investigations, coordinating clinical and environmental specimen testing at the Georgia Public Health Laboratory (GPHL), and managing statewide outbreak related data. ADES epidemiologists also work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration for technical support and collaboration on multistate investigations.

What is an outbreak?

An outbreak is defined as more cases of disease in time or place than expected. If the condition is rare (i.e. foodborne botulism) or has serious public health implications (i.e. bioterrorism agent), an outbreak may involve only one case. When two or more cases have the same laboratory diagnosis of the etiologic agent, the outbreak is considered laboratory confirmed. A cluster is a group of cases linked together in place and time (and may represent an outbreak). Not all clusters are outbreaks but all clusters are investigated thoroughly and rapidly to rule out an outbreak or to implement control measures.

Georgia epidemiologists are responsible for outbreak investigations involving Georgia residents regardless of the exposure location. Outbreaks involving residents from multiple states are usually coordinated by CDC. Investigations into the source of an outbreak or cluster can vary with the etiology involved (viral, bacterial, parasitic, or chemical), the mode of transmission (foodborne, waterborne, environmental, person-to-person), or the setting (restaurant, nursing home, school, community.

Epidemiologists in Georgia use the following ten steps to investigate every outbreak. This standardized approach ensures timely response and thorough investigation into the cause of any outbreak so that it can be stopped and/or further disease can be prevented.

Outbreak Investigation: 10 Steps

Additional Information:

Georgia Public Health Laboratory Forms
Infectious Disease Outbreak Annual Reports 
Norovirus Information and Forms
Stool Collection for Outbreaks
CDC, EPA, and FDA Resources

Georgia Public Health Laboratory Forms

GPHL Submission Form Fillable

GPHL Submission Form Non-Fillable

Infectious Disease Outbreak Annual Reports

2011 Outbreak Annual Report

2012 Outbreak Annual Report

Norovirus Information and Forms

Bleach Solution for Norovirus Cleaning

Institutional Gastrointestinal Outbreak Checklist for Public Health Professionals

Viral Gastroenteritis Outbreaks in Nursing Homes or Long-Term Care Facilities Guidelines for Environmental Decontamination

Norovirus Fact Sheet

Recommendations for the Control of Viral Gastroenteritis Outbreaks in Long-Term Care Facilities

Stool Collection for Outbreaks

Outbreak Shipping Kit-Non-fresh Stool

Outbreak Shipping Kit-Fresh Stool

Stool Collection Chart for Public Health Professionals

Stool Collection General Instructions for Public Health Professionals

Stool Collection Instructions for Patients

CDC, EPA, and FDA Resources

List of EPA Registered Norovirus Disinfectants

Norovirus in Healthcare Facilities Fact Sheet

Norovirus Key Infection Control Recommendations

Common Foodborne Illness Causing Organisms