BMC Public Health
Background: For a regional project in four low-incidence states, we designed a customizable tuberculosis outbreak response plan. Prior to dissemination of the plan, a tuberculosis outbreak occurred, presenting an opportunity to perform a field assessment of the plan. The purpose of the assessment was to ensure that the plan included essential elements to help public health professionals recognize and respond to outbreaks.
Methods: We designed a semi-structured questionnaire and interviewed all key stakeholders involved in the response. We used common themes to assess validity of and identify gaps in the plan. A subset of participants provided structured feedback on the plan.
Results: We interviewed 11 public health and six community stakeholders. The assessment demonstrated that (1) almost all of the main response activities were reflected in the plan; (2) the plan added value by providing a definition of a tuberculosis outbreak and guidelines for communication and evaluation. These were areas that lacked written protocols during the actual outbreak response; and (3) basic education about tuberculosis and the interpretation and use of genotyping data were important needs. Stakeholders also suggested adding to the plan questions for evaluation and a section for specific steps to take when an outbreak is suspected.
Conclusion: An interactive field assessment of a programmatic tool revealed the value of a systematic outbreak response plan with a standard definition of a tuberculosis outbreak, guidelines for communication and evaluation, and response steps. The assessment highlighted the importance of education and training for tuberculosis in low-incidence areas.