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Outbreaks of infectious diseases

How we investigate outbreaks of infectious illnesses, and further guidance for hotels and sleeping accommodation providers.


An outbreak is defined as two or more linked cases of the same disease.

The investigation of outbreaks of food poisoning and certain infectious diseases is carried out by Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) and others employed by the local authority.

Local authorities have powers to assist both investigation and control of outbreaks, including powers of entry, sampling powers and powers to exclude food handlers, seize and detain food and close premises.

Food poisoning outbreaks

If a number of people ate at the same premises and have the same types of symptoms, such as sickness and/or diarrhoea, this may be due to a food poisoning outbreak. Our investigation into the outbreak involves:    

  • interviewing people who are ill    
  • interviewing others who ate at the premises but didn't have symptoms
  • taking faecal and food samples (if appropriate), and
  • inspecting the implicated premises

If there is enough evidence implicating a food premises within the area as a possible source of the outbreak, we may decide to carry out a food hygiene inspection (see our Food hygiene inspections webpage for action we can take following a food inspection).

Advice for hotels and sleeping accommodation

If your hotel or sleeping accommodation has an outbreak of Norovirus or gastroenteritis (sickness and/or diarrhoea) please contact us to report this immediately. We will record the details and may visit the premises to check if the illness could be caused by food poisoning. 

We encourage businesses to contact the UK Health Security Agency (formerly Public Health England) for further specialist advice.

Download a series of forms and guides below to help you gather and pass on vital information for both your guests and staff.

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Last modified on 21 November 2022