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Open Access Research article

Field assessment of a model tuberculosis outbreak response plan for low-incidence areas

Laura Freimanis Hance1, Karen R Steingart2*, Christine G Hahn3, Lisa Pascopella2 and Charles M Nolan4

Author Affiliations

1 Westat, Inc, Rockville, Maryland, USA

2 Francis J. Curry National Tuberculosis Center, San Francisco, California, USA

3 Division of Health, Idaho Department of Heath and Welfare, Boise, Idaho, USA

4 Public Health – Seattle & King County, Seattle Washington, USA

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:307  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-307

Published: 26 October 2007

Abstract

Background

For a regional project in four low-incidence states, we designed a customizable tuberculosis outbreak response plan. Prior to dissemination of the plan, a tuberculosis outbreak occurred, presenting an opportunity to perform a field assessment of the plan. The purpose of the assessment was to ensure that the plan included essential elements to help public health professionals recognize and respond to outbreaks.

Methods

We designed a semi-structured questionnaire and interviewed all key stakeholders involved in the response. We used common themes to assess validity of and identify gaps in the plan. A subset of participants provided structured feedback on the plan.

Results

We interviewed 11 public health and six community stakeholders. The assessment demonstrated that (1) almost all of the main response activities were reflected in the plan; (2) the plan added value by providing a definition of a tuberculosis outbreak and guidelines for communication and evaluation. These were areas that lacked written protocols during the actual outbreak response; and (3) basic education about tuberculosis and the interpretation and use of genotyping data were important needs. Stakeholders also suggested adding to the plan questions for evaluation and a section for specific steps to take when an outbreak is suspected.

Conclusion

An interactive field assessment of a programmatic tool revealed the value of a systematic outbreak response plan with a standard definition of a tuberculosis outbreak, guidelines for communication and evaluation, and response steps. The assessment highlighted the importance of education and training for tuberculosis in low-incidence areas.