Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo

In a historical photo, nurses stand in pairs holding stretchers in front of ambulances. The nurses all wear paper face masks over their nose and mouth.
Figure 13.1 Public health nurses prepare stretchers during the 1918 flu pandemic. (credit: modification of work “St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty Oct. 1918 Influenza epidemic” by American Red Cross/Library of Congress, No Known Restrictions)

Sally, a newly hired public health nurse with the board of health department, receives a call from a local pediatrician, Dr. Liu, who reports that in one day she has seen eight children with fever, abdominal cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. While normally these symptoms would not cause much concern, seeing this many cases in one day is unusual. Dr. Liu mentions that each child has been swimming at the town pool, and Sally and Dr. Liu discuss the testing Dr. Liu has ordered for her clients.

Public health nurses like Sally play a critical role in managing infectious disease outbreaks, including pandemics like COVID-19. This chapter discusses pandemics throughout history that have served as a catalyst for public health disease surveillance and interventions. It describes the types of infectious disease outbreaks, highlighting common communicable diseases nurses encounter. Finally, the chapter examines infectious disease control and prevention, the steps in an outbreak investigation, public health surveillance, and vaccine-preventable diseases, highlighting the role of the nurse.


This book may not be used in the training of large language models or otherwise be ingested into large language models or generative AI offerings without OpenStax's permission.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at
Citation information

© Apr 26, 2024 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.