Legionnaires' disease outbreak investigation toolbox

Download Page

Developing Communications

An outbreak response will be a developing situation with information on new cases and updates on existing case arriving, potentially erratically. There are two critical considerations to make when looking to the future, one is identifying and learning lessons from this response to improve response to subsequent outbreaks/clusters, the other is managing the flow of new information to facilitate the more short-term current response/revise hypotheses.

For the former, mechanisms should be in place to debrief staff following official cessation of outbreak control team activity. For the latter, the processes in place to facilitate good data collection and management should provide revision of data. However, data and inference upon it should be released in a planned way, that will not negatively impact on the outbreak control team activities. Communications, discussed below, with media, individuals and medical staff are essential steps in informing people of risks and identifying potential cases and being proactive in the release of appropriate information can avoid distraction of staff from core activities.

This section provides template messages that might be of help during an outbreak, either to inform the public of an event through the (local) media or that could be used to provide information to individuals, possibly as a letter when case finding. Additionally a Question and Answer brief is attached which could be used on a website or as a script for helpline operators.

Broadly the content of these messages should contain:

  • How many cases there have been to date
  • Other contextual information from the outbreak control team
  • A statement of what Legionnaires' disease is, including symptoms
  • Background information about Legionnaires' disease
  • Contact details for additional information

In addition the message to the general public should include:

  • Description of new case(s) since last message
  • Update on status of other cases
  • Symptoms to be aware of

Template messages

In the following statements text in red should be changed to be relevant to the outbreak in question (location, outbreak control team personnel etc). Text in square brackets could be deleted and/or modified if/as appropriate. The template messages included are for reporting:

The initial identification of an outbreak

Continuing updates (increases in deaths or cases and potential evidence for common infection)

The identification of a potential source

A cruise ship identified as the source

A hotel identified as the source

The cessation of the outbreak investigation

In addition a letter informing individuals of the risks of exposure (to support case finding) and a set of frequently asked questions and answers regarding Legionnaires' disease are included. Alternatively, Legionella factsheets are available from ECDC and WHO