Outbreak investigation is a central aspect of field epidemiology, and infectious diseases intelligence and surveillance underpin 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.

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.

This 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 term.

Mode of study

External (Distance) and Internal (Face-to-Face) classes on campus

Key contacts

Dr Abrar Chughtai
Course Convenor
+61 (2) 9385 1009

Dr Adam Craig
Course Convenor
+61 (2) 9385 2241

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.

Course outcomes

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.

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.

Learning & teaching

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.

Internal students: We will be using a ‘flipped classroom’ approach in this course. This means you will (independently) watch a series of online lectures before participating in synchronous weekly tutorials. The tutorial will be delivered either face-to-face on campus (if COVID restrictions allow) or by videoconference. Please monitor the Moodle announcements for updates. The tutorials will be activity-based and supplement the content covered in the lecture. As an internal student, you are required to attend all tutorials, whether they are held on-campus or online.

External students: Students will independently work through the 10 modules (one each week) of the course. Each module contains a mixture of recorded lecture/s and interactive case studies which you are expected to work through at your own pace. There will be a discussion forum available for each module.


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

Assessment Task 2 – Outbreak Investigation Scenario
Weighting: 40%
Length: 2000 words 

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

Assessment Task 4 – Multi-component Written Report
Weighting: 40%
Length: 2000 words

Readings & resources 

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

  • the course outline and weekly modules with web links to required pre-readings and key resources
  • recorded lectures and PowerPoint slides
  • online case studies for external students
  • assessment tasks and submission of assessments.

The following book is a wonderful resource that you will find helpful during this course:

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.