Outbreak summaries overview

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Outbreak summaries

What is it?
Outbreak Summaries (OS) is a tool that has been created for local, provincial, territorial and federal public health authorities to assist them in summarizing the results of enteric, respiratory and vaccine preventable disease outbreaks investigations.

OS is a secure web-based application hosted by the Canadian Network for Public Health Intelligence (CNPHI) that allows users to summarize outbreak information in a systematic and standardized manner. Users collect, query, summarize and generate reports on the results of outbreak investigations within their jurisdiction and across the country.


OS allows users to collect, query, summarize and generate reports on outbreaks within the following content areas:
• Reporting Source
• Event Information (outbreak number, dates)
• Case Information
• Organism Description
• Exposure Details
• Location of Cases
• Source Details, including contributing factors and evidence of the mode of transmission
• Public Health Interventions


Users of OS can:
• link existing Public Health Alerts to summary reports
• include sensitive jurisdiction specific information that remain only visible to users within the reporting jurisdiction
• attach documents to their summary reports (epidemic curves, maps, and other relevant information)
• link related outbreaks that have summary reports created in other jurisdictions
• create simple queries and extract line lists, graphs, etc. and export data sets in spreadsheet format based on user defined criteria.


OS allows users to monitor trends in outbreaks and provides a basis for policy development and public health planning. OS can be used to query similar outbreaks in other jurisdictions to assist with outbreak response (e.g., identifying public health interventions, sources attributed to previous outbreaks, etc.). Through OS, the potential exists to monitor trends and patterns in outbreaks at the local, provincial, territorial and national level.

Current status – enteric module

As of 2018, the Public Health Agency of Canada and ten provinces/territories (British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories) were routinely reporting enteric outbreaks though the OS tool. The report, An overview of foodborne outbreaks in Canada reported through Outbreak Summaries: 2008-2014, was published in 2015. This report is the first national-level summary of outbreaks reported to OS and has demonstrated the utility of the data as an important and credible source of information on outbreak investigations in Canada. As more provinces and territories adopt this tool and begin using OS as a means to report outbreaks, an increasingly complete national picture of enteric outbreaks in Canada will emerge.

The enteric module is supported by the Outbreak Management Division, Centre for Foodborne, Environmental and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (OMD-CFEZID), PHAC. OMD-CFEZID can provide support and resources to new users for implementation and ongoing participation in OS. Please refer to contact information provided below.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact:

Outbreak Management Division
Centre for Foodborne, Environmental and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, PHAC