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Local Authority > Walsall Public Health > Infection Prevention and Control > Outbreak Recording

Classification of an outbreak

An outbreak or incident may be defined as:

  • an incident in which two or more people experiencing a similar illness are linked in time or place
  • a greater than expected rate of infection compared with the usual background rate for the place and time where the outbreak has occurred

For example:

  • 2 or more cases of diarrhoea and/or vomiting which are in the same classroom, shared communal areas or taking part in the same activities
  • higher than usual number of people diagnosed with scabies
  • higher than usual number of people diagnosed with scarlet fever
  • two or more cases of measles at the school or other childcare setting

When to report

Head teachers and managers should contact West Midlands Health Protection Team (WMHPT)  0344 225 3560 option 2 as soon as they suspect an outbreak to discuss the situation and agree if any actions are needed. It is useful to have the information listed below available before this discussion as it will help to inform the size and nature of the outbreak:

  • total numbers affected (staff and children)
  • symptoms
  • date(s) when symptoms started
  • number of classes affected

How to report

Childcare settings are asked to telephone WMHPT as soon as possible to report any serious or unusual illness particularly for:

  • Escherichia coli (VTEC) (also called E.coli 0157) or E coli VTEC infection
  • food poisoning
  • hepatitis
  • measles, mumps, rubella (rubella is also called German measles)
  • meningitis
  • tuberculosis
  • typhoid
  • whooping cough (also called pertussis)

The full list of notifiable diseases was updated in 2010.

WMHPT can also draft letters and provide factsheets for parents and carers to ensure the most up to date information is given.


It is important to note that health protection teams are bound to manage personal case details in strict confidence. Therefore, information given to schools from the team for distribution during an outbreak will never name cases or give out any personal details. Organisations where cases are identified are also bound to manage personal case details in strict confidence.

Read further information on patient confidentiality and how information is used by the HPT.