The use of GIS in
Legionnaires' disease outbreak investigations
A Geographic Information System (GIS) can be described as the integration of software and
hardware for the digital capture, management, analysis and visualisation of geographically
referenced data. In the field of public health, GIS have the unique ability to incorporate both spatial and
non-spatial data from a wide variety of sources to help describe and understand the
geographical distribution of disease, and to communicate complex concepts and relationships
through maps that might not otherwise be apparent. GIS can be useful tools in revealing relationships between
people, place and time and as such their application within the field of epidemiology,
including disease outbreak detection and response, is increasing.
Within the field of Legionnaires' disease outbreak investigation, descriptive epidemiology and
microbiological investigation are often sufficient to identify the source of an Legionnaires'
disease outbreak, however there are instances where the source of an outbreak remains unclear.
It is in these situations that GIS can potentially provide new insight into the dynamics of an
Legionnaires' disease outbreak and perhaps help identify an outbreak source, target additional
investigation or corroborate findings from other forms of investigation.
These pages will outline some GIS-based analytical approaches to Legionnaires' disease outbreak
detection and investigation, and their data requirements, discussing some of the specific
issues associated to Legionnaires' disease. It will also consider issues surrounding the use of
Legionnaires' disease outbreaks within individual countries as well as in a European
cross-border scenario. These have been divided into the following sections:
Analytical methods for Legionnaires' disease outbreak detection and
Data requirements for Legionnaires' disease outbreak detection and