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Case definitions for public health surveillance
  • Published Date:
    October 19, 1990
Filetype[PDF - 302.23 KB]


Details:
  • Corporate Authors:
    Centers for Disease Control (U.S.)
  • Description:
    Public health officials rely on health providers, laboratories, and other public health personnel to report the occurrence of notifiable diseases to state and local health departments. Without such data, monitoring trends or evaluating the effectiveness of intervention activities would be difficult.

    The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) has recommended that state health departments report cases of selected diseases to CDC’s National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS). However, the usefulness of such data has been limited by the lack of uniform case definitions for public health surveillance. Without explicit criteria for identifying cases, state health departments and individual practitioners have used various criteria for case reporting. This document, prepared in cooperation with the CSTE, provides uniform criteria for reporting purposes. States that wish to improve the specificity of reporting may find the definitions helpful. As uniform case definitions are adopted, the incidence of reported diseases in different geographic areas may be more meaningfully compared.

    In the United States, requirements for reporting diseases are mandated by state laws or regulations, and the list of reportable diseases in each state varies. A summary of state requirements for notifiable diseases has recently been published . National data from the NNDSS are collated and published weekly in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). In general, cases reported by state health departments to the NNDSS are provisional. Updated final reports are published annually in the Summary of Notifiable Diseases.

    The CSTE/CDC surveillance case definitions included in this document vary in their use of clinical, laboratory, and epidemiologic criteria to define cases. Some clinical syndromes do not have confirmatory laboratory tests, but laboratory evidence may be one component of a clinical definition; toxic shock syndrome is an example. Other diseases (e.g., mumps) have such a characteristic clinical presentation that, even in the absence of confirmatory laboratory testing, a diagnosis may be based only on clinical findings. In most instances, a brief clinical description is provided. Unless the clinical description is explicitly cited in the “Case classification” section of each definition, it is included only as background information.

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