ECDC Technical Document: Operational guidance on rapid risk assessment methodology

Publication Date: 01 August 2011

This guidance has been approved for use in Scotland by the Scottish Health Protection Network Guidance Group (SHPN-GG). The guidance should be used in conjunction with the SHPN addendum.

​​This Operational guidance on rapid risk assessment methodology​ develops a methodology for rapid risk assessments undertaken in the initial stages of an event or incident of potential public health concern. It describes an operational tool to facilitate rapid risk assessments for communicable disease incidents at both Member State and European level.

The tool comprises information tables and risk-ranking algorithms to give an estimate of risk posed by a threat. The risk to a population from a communicable disease is dependent on the likelihood of transmission in the population (probability) and the severity of disease (impact). The probability of an incident developing, and the impact if it does, are based on both the nature of the infectious agent and details of the incident. This may be further influenced by context or the broad environment in which the incident occurs, including political, public, media interest, perception of threat, and the acceptance of risk, which may vary between countries and cultures.

Rapid risk assessment is a core part of public health response and thus widely undertaken by public health professionals. Formal systems which are used to grade evidence and recommendations, such as the systematic methods used in evidence-based medicine, rely on published research evidence, and studies are graded according to design and susceptibility to bias. However, as time and evidence are limited, a rapid risk assessment may need to rely at least in part on specialist expert knowledge, and these formal systems are not directly applicable. However, the same principles of transparency, explicitness, and reproducibility also apply to a rapid risk assessment.

Resource information

European Center for Disease Prevention and Control
Publication type:
Guideline and Guidance