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CDC Epidemiology Case Studies

CDC developed case studies in applied epidemiology based on real-life epidemiologic investigations and used them for training new Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers — CDC’s “disease detectives.” EIS offers these carefully crafted epidemiology case studies for schools of medicine, nursing, and public health to use as a component of an applied epidemiology curriculum.

How are the case studies used?

Students may practice their epidemiologic skills by using these exercises in classroom activities or as homework assignments to reinforce principles and skills previously covered in lectures and reading assignments.

  • In-Class Activity: Students, read the case study up to the first question and then perform calculations, construct graphs, or discuss the answer. Students may be asked to play different roles in answering the question. After discussing the first answer satisfactorily, read on to the next question and continue with the exercise.
  • Individual Activity: Students, for a homework assignment, read the case study and answer the questions, then discuss the findings in class.

The following case studies use specific examples to teach epidemiology concepts, require active participation, and help strengthen problem-solving skills. These case studies in applied epidemiology:

Student Guides 

A Cluster of Group A Streptococcal Postoperative Wound Infections (1989)

A Measles Outbreak in a Highly Vaccinated Population: Health Sector Muyinga, Burundi 1988-1989 (1992)

A Mixed Bag in Michigan (The PBB Story) (1991)

An Epidemic Disease in South Carolina (1992)

An Epidemic of Thyrotoxicosis (2003 Update)

Case study based on a 1985 outbreak with unknown etiology and mode of transmission in multiple states. Updated in 2003.

An Outbreak of Appendicitis in Oneida (1988)

An Outbreak of Enteritis During a Pilgrimage to Mecca

An Outbreak of Hemorrhagic Fever in Africa ("Ebola")

An Outbreak of Jaundice in a Rural County

An Outbreak of Neurologic Syndrome Among Factory Workers (1991 update)

Botulism in Argentina

Botulism in Argentina (Spanish Version)

Cigarette Smoking and Lung Cancer (2003 update)

Case study based on the classic studies of Doll and Hill in the 1950s. Addresses study design, interpretation of measures of association, and impact of association. 

Epidemic Measles in a Divided City (Texarkana) (1990)

Injury Surveillance (1990 update)

Listeriosis in Costa Rica (1990)

Oral Contraceptive Use and Ovarian Cancer (2005 update)

Case study based on a 1980–1982 multicenter case-control study. Addresses bias and analysis of case-control studies. Updated in 2005.

"Oswego:" An Outbreak of Gastrointestinal Illness Following a Church Supper (2003 update)

Case study of a classic, straightforward outbreak investigation in a defined population. Based on a 1940 outbreak of Staphylococcus aureus among church picnic attendees. Additional material: Compendium of Acute Foodborne and Waterborne Diseases 

Screening for Antibody to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Suspected Legionnaires' Disease in Bogalusa (2003 update)

Case study based on a community outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Bogalusa, Louisiana in 1989. Addresses the steps of a field investigation and a case-control study.. Updated in 2003.

Tampons and Toxic Shock Syndrome (1992 update)

Vinyl Chorlide and Cancer (1988)

Oral Contraceptive Use and Ovarian Cancer

Paralytic Illness in Ababo

Surveillance of E-Coli 0157:H7 - Information for Action (2003 Update)

Case study based on surveillance and investigation activities of the Oregon Health Division between 1986 and 1995. 

Texarkana - Epidemic Measles in a Divided City

Case study based on an infectious disease outbreak investigation in Texas.

Instructor Guides

Instructor guides/Preceptor versions for teachers/faculty can be purchased from the APTR online store. Instructor guides are available FREE for APTR members and are $20 for non-members.

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