Lassa fever is endemic in parts of West Africa and cases often occur without an outbreak being declared. Different kinds of response are activated depending on whether individual cases are involved or a cluster of cases has been identified. An outbreak is the occurrence of cases of disease in excess of what would normally be expected in a defined community, geographical area or season. Response bodies include:
- Outbreak response teams with mobile labs
- Investigative teams who try to ascertain the source and extent of the outbreak; and in the case of a larger outbreak
- An Emergency Operations Centre coordinating the response.
Policy and decision making at all levels of response infrastructure shape the direction of an outbreak response. The forms that outbreak response takes entail a mixture of of internal factors (such as human capacity, style of governance) and external factors (such as political interference and interests). Social science research can help understand factors influencing decision making processes during an emergency response and help improve outbreak response systems.