The term field epidemiology describes the application of epidemiologic methods, usually by representatives of a public health service, to address specific healthrelated questions in community settings. Many, if not most, field investigations address urgent or acute health problems. However, many others are conducted as planned studies addressing less urgent needs. All field investigations have in common the aim of conducting scientifically rigorous studies, sometimes under difficult circumstances, to answer very specific epidemiologic questions with the ultimate aim of planning, implementing, or evaluating public health interventions.

Outbreak investigations are a prominent example of field epidemiology studies and serve to illustrate many of the characteristics common to all field investigations. An outbreak investigation, like other field investigations, has the following goals: (a) to determine the cause and etiology ...

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