School of Population Health

Outbreak Investigation and Intelligence Course Description

This course will be offered fully online in Term 3 2021 for both Face-to-face internal students, and distance external students.

This is a PLuS Alliance course offered through UNSW. Students at UNSW, Arizona State University and Kings College London who are in a PLuS Alliance program can enrol into this course.


Outbreak investigation is a central aspect of field epidemiology and infectious diseases intelligence and surveillance underpins outbreak identification, response and control. The focus of this course is on understanding routine and unusual disease outbreaks and the application of methods for their detection and investigation and control in resource limited and developed settings. The course uses case studies to teach epidemiologic disease pattern recognition, identification of aberrant patterns, and interpretation of epidemic and surveillance data to inform outbreak investigation and disease control. 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. An overview of field epidemiology methods and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases will also be provided. Case studies include salmonella, E. coli, enterovirus, hepatitis, avian influenza, MERS coronavirus, Ebola outbreaks and COVID-19.

Course aims

This course aims to give students the skills to interpret surveillance, disease intelligence and outbreak data, analyse epidemiological patterns, identify expected and aberrant patterns, and understand the principles of disease modelling in the context of field epidemiology, outbreak investigation and control.

Course learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Explain the role of disease surveillance and other intelligence in outbreak detection and investigation.
  • Describe best practice principles of outbreak investigations in diverse global settings. 
  • Analyse outbreak data and interpret diverse and aberrant epidemiological patterns of infectious disease outbreaks.
  • Demonstrate understanding of appropriate prevention and control measures for an outbreak response. 
  • Demonstrate understanding of modelling and forecasting of infectious diseases based on known transmission dynamics.
Credit points

This course is a core course of the Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence Program, comprising 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program. A value of 6 UOC requires a minimum of 150 hours work for the average student across the semester.

Who should do this course?

This course is designed for stakeholders from any relevant sector, who wish to gain a better understanding of outbreak investigation, and infectious diseases intelligence in the era of new and emerging disease threats, and management approaches for the identification, assessment, prevention and control of infectious diseases. Students will have an intensive, interactive experience, which will include exposure to the perspectives of different stakeholder sectors in infectious diseases.

Learning and teaching rationale

This course uses learning activities and assessment tasks that reflect the learning outcomes of the course and are drawn from real studies in order to support your learning of new concepts and the application of epidemiological techniques through practice, lectures, online discussions and scheduled webinars.

Teaching strategies

Internal students - We will use a ‘Flipped Classroom” approach in this course. This will consist of both face-to-face class and online components.  You will watch lecture videos outside of class time and experience related case studies in the class room. As an internal student, you are required to attend the on campus classes.

External students - This course is available fully online for external students. There are 10 modules in this course.  Each module contains a mixture of recorded lecture/s and case studies which you can work through in Moodle at your own pace over 10 weeks. There will be a discussion forum available for each module, which you can use to post any issues raised in the readings, the lectures or case studies during the course. The discussion forums will be supported by SPHCM academic staff on weekdays.


Assessment Task 1 - First Quiz
Weighting: 10%
Length: 10 Multiple Choice Questions

Assessment Task 2 - Outbreak Investigation Scenario
Weighting: 40%
Length: 10 questions of up to 250 words each 

Assessment Task 3 - Second Quiz
Weighting: 10%
Length: 10 Multiple Choice Questions

Assessment Task 4 - Multi-component Written Report
Weighting: 40%
Length: 4 pages plus references at the end

Readings and resources

This course uses the online learning environment to provide access to:

  1. The course outline and weekly modules with web links to required pre-readings and key resources
  2. Recorded lectures and PowerPoint slides
  3. Online case studies for external students
  4. Assessment tasks and submission of assessments

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

An eBook is also available in UNSW Library.

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