There was a large community outbreak of giardiasis in Bergen in the autumn of 2004 that was acknowledged about two months after the first patients became ill. The aim of this article is to describe the diagnostic approach of clinicians faced with an unexpected problem, and how they reacted when communicable disease was detected.
A focus group interview was conducted with six of the 18 doctors who had requested stool examinations from patients in October 2004 with the aim of detecting parasites. This was after the first patients became ill, but before the outbreak was widely recognized.
Discussions among doctors were instrumental, both in reaching the correct diagnosis, and in acknowledging a possible outbreak in the community. There was no uniform approach to reaching the diagnosis, but rather a common unravelling of a mutual problem. Doctors contacted or tried to make contact with public health authorities when at least one case was confirmed and this case was linked to other patients with diarrhoeal disease.
Clinicians need meeting places where they can discuss problems that arise in everyday practice. Public health authorities and clinicians need better procedures for warning, reception and follow-up when outbreaks of communicable diseases are suspected.