Healthcare professionals and professionals in many other industries, including the catering industry, are required to adhere to strict regulations related to infection control to prevent the spread of infections and the development of general and specific infections and healthcare associated infections. If an outbreak of infection does occur, hospitals and health trusts follow a protocol to investigate the outbreak and prevent the spread of infection.
What is an outbreak investigation?
If there are a number of cases of a specific illness or infection, health authorities may order an outbreak investigation. This investigation is used to determine whether there has been an outbreak or whether there is a pseudo-outbreak, which may either be due to coincidence or caused by a mistake during the testing or diagnosis processes.
If the investigation finds that there has been a true outbreak, action will be taken to stop the spread of infection and find the source of the infection. Outbreak investigations are important because they allow health bosses to determine the cause of an outbreak and the nature of an infection, as well as teaching them how to deal with similar scenarios in the future and educating them about new infections or strains of known viruses or bacteria. Outbreak investigations are also useful for reassuring members of the public and helping to prevent disruption and panic in the event of outbreaks in the future.
The results of outbreak investigations are available to the public once reports have been compiled.
Dealing with an infection outbreak
All hospitals and health institutions will have procedures in place to deal with an outbreak of infection. All staff will be required to adhere to the guidelines proposed in order to prevent the spread of infection, protect other patients and protect themselves. Staff may be required to change their uniform, use specialist equipment and adopt sterilisation procedures and sterile services and section off infected patients.