School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Outbreak Investigation (PHCM9731)

image - Outbreak Investigation

This course can also be taken as part of the PLuS Alliance program


The focus of this course is on understanding disease outbreaks and the application of methods for their investigation and control in resource limited and developed settings. The course explores a number of outbreaks from around the world in case studies, lectures, discussion forums, webinars and readings to teach principles of outbreak detection, verification, investigation, communication and control. You will learn about outbreak data analysis and interpretation, outbreaks in vulnerable populations as well as the role of the laboratory. The Infectious Diseases Intelligence course takes the concepts taught in this course to a more advanced level, and should be taken together with Outbreak Investigation by students interested in a career in epidemic response.

Credit points

This course can be taken as an elective in the Master of Public Health program (9045) and other MPH streams, the Public Security stream (specialisation) of the Master of Public Health Program (PHCMZS9045), as well as the Master of International Public Health or Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence. For students enrolled in these programs, the course comprises 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program.

Mode of study

This course is offered in two modes: either face to face (on-campus) and fully online. The only face-to-face sessions for face to face (on-campus) students are four tutorials comprising three case studies and one outbreak data analysis workshop.

Course aim

This course aims to give you the skills to rigorously investigate and control infectious diseases outbreaks.

Course Outcomes
At the conclusion of this course you should be able to:
  • Explain the role of disease surveillance in outbreak detection and investigation.
  • Describe best practice principles of outbreak investigations in diverse global settings.
  • Determine prevention and control measures for an outbreak response.
  • Analyse outbreak data to inform decision making.
  • Develop outbreak communications materials for various stakeholder audiences including health professionals and the general public.
Learning and teaching rationale

Postgraduate teaching aims to support students in developing their capacity for inquiry and critical thinking. In this course, an active learning approach is encouraged which include interactive instruction, self-directed learning, collaborative problem solving and peer learning. The approach to learning and teaching and the organisation of this course are designed to encourage the development of lifelong learning skills and intellectual flexibility that can be applied to the area of outbreak investigation as well as prevention and control.

Teaching strategies

The course is available for both internal and external (online) study modes. Much of the course content is available online. Internal students will have the opportunity to complete some activities in a class room on campus.


Assessment Task 1 - Complete Case Studies 1 and 2
Weighting: 20%
Length: Moodel Quiz - short answer questions

Assessment Task 1 - Outbreak Scenario 1
Weighting: 40%
Length: 10 questions of up to 250 words each

Assessment Task 2 - Outbreak Scenario 2
Weighting: 40%
Length: 4 pages plus references

Reading and resources

Learning resources for this course are found in Moodle and include:

  • Readings (links)
  • Lectures slides (downloadable)
  • Video lectures (embedded)
  • Case studies (embedded)
  • Supplementary resources such as videos, etc.

This text provides many of the compulsory course readings:

  • Rasmussen S.A. and Goodman R.A. (eds) (2019). The CDC Field Epidemiology Manual. New York: Oxford University Press.

It is freely available online at the CDC website here:

If you want to purchase a hard copy, it is available from the UNSW Bookshop in person or online: