Foodborne Illness Outbreak Basics
What is an outbreak?
An outbreak is defined as an incident in which two or more persons experience a similar illness after a common exposure.
Outbreaks are classified in a variety of ways, including:
How do I know if an outbreak is occurring?
An infectious disease outbreak is an increase in the occurrence of a particular infectious disease above what is normally expected. For example, a cluster of children absent from school due to gastrointestinal illness could represent an outbreak if they are found to have the same infectious disease.
Before concluding that an outbreak is occurring, it is important to get more information about the cases. The Minnesota Department of Health will typically contact the case (or the parents) and ask for information, such as the number of children who are ill, their symptoms, and a detail history of the foods eaten in the few days before illness. It is also important to collect information on what diagnostic tests have been conducted and obtain their results.
Outbreaks may be caused by person-to-person transmission, contaminated food or water, or animal contact.
For a list of more foodborne diseases see: Causes and Symptoms of Foodborne Illness.