Surveillance Case Definitions for Human Infection with Novel Coronavirus (nCoV)

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Reported symptoms have included fever in 90% of cases, fatigue and a dry cough in 80%, and shortness of breath in 20%, with respiratory distress in 15%. Chest x-rays have revealed signs in both lungs. Vital signs were generally stable at the time of admission of those hospitalised. Blood tests have commonly shown low white blood cell counts (leucopenia and lymphopenia).

Case definitions for surveillance

Suspect case
A. Patients with severe acute respiratory infection (fever, cough, and requiring admission to hospital), AND with no other etiology that fully explains the clinical presentation AND at least one of the following:

  • a history of travel to or residence in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in the 14 days prior to symptom onset, or
  • patient is a health care worker who has been working in an environment where severe acute respiratory infections of unknown etiology are being cared for.

B. Patients with any acute respiratory illness AND at least one of the following:

  • close contact with a confirmed or probable case of 2019-nCoV in the 14 days prior to illness onset, or
  • visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in the 14 days prior to symptom onset, or
  • worked or attended a health care facility in the 14 days prior to onset of symptoms where patients with hospital-associated 2019-nCov infections have been reported.

Probable case
Probable case: A suspect case for whom testing for 2019-nCoV is inconclusive or for whom testing was positive on a pan-coronavirus assay.

Confirmed case
A person with laboratory confirmation of 2019-nCoV infection, irrespective of clinical signs and symptoms.



  1. Surveillance case definitions for human infection with novel coronavirus (nCoV) (WHO)
  2. Hui DS, I Azhar E, Madani TA, et al. The continuing 2019-nCoV epidemic threat of novel coronaviruses to global health – The latest 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jan 14]. Int J Infect Dis. 2020;91:264–266. [Medline]
  3. Chen Y, Liu Q, Guo D. Coronaviruses: genome structure, replication, and pathogenesis [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jan 22]. J Med Virol. 2020;10.1002/jmv.25681. [Medline]
  4. Li Q, Guan X, Wu P, et al. Early Transmission Dynamics in Wuhan, China, of Novel Coronavirus-Infected Pneumonia. N Engl J Med. 2020;10.1056/NEJMoa2001316. [Medline]

Created Jan 24, 2020.

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