Case Definitions for COVID-19

Case Definitions for COVID-19

WHO periodically updates the Global Surveillance for human infection with COVID-19. For easy reference, case definitions are listed below.

Suspect case
  1. a) A patient with acute respiratory illness (fever and at least one sign/symptom of respiratory disease, e.g., cough, shortness of breath), AND a history of travel to or residence in a location reporting community transmission of COVID-19 disease during the 14 days prior to symptom onset.

OR

  1. b) A patient with any acute respiratory illness AND having been in contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case (see definition of contact) in the last 14 days prior to symptom onset

OR

  1. c) A patient with severe acute respiratory illness (fever and at least one sign/symptom of respiratory disease, e.g. cough, shortness of breath; AND requiring hospitalization) AND in the absence of an alternative diagnosis that fully explains the clinical presentation.
Probable case
  1. a) A suspect case for whom testing for the COVID-19 virus is inconclusive (Inconclusive being the result of the test reported by the laboratory).

OR

  1. b) A suspect case for whom testing could not be performed for any reason.
Confirmed case

A person with laboratory confirmation of COVID-19 infection, irrespective of clinical signs and symptoms.Technical guidance for laboratory testing can be found here.

Definition of contact

A contact is a person who experienced any one of the following exposures during the 2 days before and the 14 days after the onset of symptoms of a probable or confirmed case:

  • Face-to-face contact with a probable or confirmed case within 1 meter and for more than 15 minutes;
  • Direct physical contact with a probable or confirmed case;
  • Direct care for a patient with probable or confirmed COVID-19 disease without using proper personal protective equipment1; OR
  • Other situations as indicated by local risk assessments.

Note: for confirmed asymptomatic cases, the period of contact is measured as the 2 days before through the 14 days after the date on which the sample was taken which led to confirmation.