A disease cluster is a sudden incidence in which many people are diagnosed to be suffering from a certain illness in a given region during a certain period of time (Meehan, 2006). Disease cluster can be suspected when a large number of people such as family members, neighbors, schoolmates, workmates and among other groups are diagnosed with a similar illness (Meehan, 2006). On the other hand, disease outbreak is a phrase used to refer to a sudden occurrence of a disease, which has a bigger impact than expected (Toshiro, 2010). Disease outbreak may affect thousands of people in a region, a country or even in a continent.
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Numerous cases of tuberculosis were reported early this August. To determine whether these cases are either a cluster or an outbreak, there are a number of steps that should be followed.
When investigating whether a disease is a cluster, a researcher should gather adequate information, which will help him/her to make a conclusion. Researchers need to gather information such as frequency of the disease and infection statistics (Meehan, 2006). Researchers should also have information about the environmental condition of the affected region. Such information is vital since it helps scientists to distinguish actual disease excess. Getting to know whether the suspected cluster could have prompted a disease outbreak is also vital information (Meehan, 2006). Lastly, a researcher should also have adequate information in regard to the number of cases reported (Toshiro, 2010). This information is crucial in determining whether the affected populatio is significantly greater than what is expected.
When investigating whether a disease is an outbreak, a good researcher should gather the following information. To begin with, one should confirm background information of the affected group. This will help in determining whether the affected group is usually normal for that period of the year. Secondly, researchers should inquire about the cause of the outbreak (Meehan, 2006). This information is useful in developing a good hypothesis.
Information that is also useful in this investigation is acquiring valid data about who/ what has been affected (Kumar, 2005). This data is useful in making a conclusion to come out with reliable data. Since diseases outbreak in many patterns, there is also a need for researchers to gather information and understand outbreak methods for each disease. This information is vital in predicting the future infection rates and determining the disease category (Meehan, 2006).
The procedure for gathering all these vital information is thorough. There is a need to carryout survey in the affected region, country or continent. A researcher should therefore develop questionnaires to gather very important information from the affected people (Kumar, 2005).
Information that can be gathered using survey include who/ what have been affected, the environmental condition of the affected region, and whether the affected group is usually normal during the specific period. Other information like statistics of patients, disease frequency, and cause of outbreak can be acquired through visiting local healthcare facility as well as working with other research bodies (like Center for Disease Prevention and Control).
In summary it is very important to distinguish between a disease outbreak and a disease cluster. For a researcher to distinguish clearly between these two classes, one must gather adequate information that will help in making a valid conclusion. Doing extensive researcher and carrying out surveys are useful in gathering the much needed information.
Kumar, K. (2005). Research Methods. New Delhi: Delhi Publishers.
Meehan, K. A. (2006). Quick Reference to Outbreak Investigation and Control in Health Care Facilities: Burlington: Jones & Bartlet Press.
Toshiro, T. (2010). Statistical Methods for Disease Clustering. New York: Springer.