Cluster investigation

Drijver Drijver, Araceli Busby and Irene A. Kreis

in Essentials of Environmental Epidemiology for Health Protection

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199663415
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191759116 | DOI:
Cluster investigation

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Concern about health effects of exposure to local environmental factors such as waste dumps, air pollution, and electromagnetic fields may lead people to report health problems, particularly non-specific health symptoms for instance headaches, dizziness, and tiredness (Health Council of the Netherlands (HCN), 2001). Sensory observations, for instance odour and noise nuisance may play a role in this. Many complaint patterns display similarities, regardless of the different hazardous agents. Where several people report the same complaints or illnesses this may be perceived as a cluster (defined as an unusually high number of similar cases in a given area, period or population).

It is understandable that people report disease clusters, especially if they are concerned about the quality of the local environment. Concerns can increase if there is no proper response. Therefore it is good practice for public health services to respond quickly and appropriately. The main objective of the response is to assess the plausibility of any relationship with local environmental factors and hence to decide whether measures to limit exposure are needed or to proceed to a more detailed investigation.

Chapter.  5247 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Epidemiology

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