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Case Definition

  • In: Encyclopedia of Epidemiology
  • Edited by: Sarah Boslaugh
  • Subject:Public Health (general), Public Health Research Methods , Epidemiology & Biostatistics

A case definition is a set of criteria used in making a decision as to whether an individual has a disease or health event of interest. Given that one of the goals of epidemiology is to quantify the magnitude of disease in a population, a case definition is an imperative step in this process because it establishes what criteria constitute a case of the disease. Case definitions are used both in ongoing public health surveillance and during outbreak investigations in field epidemiology.

A case definition should include several key characteristics. It should be clear, simple, and concise so that it can be easily applied to the population of interest. A case definition should be applied equally to all individuals being investigated. By applying the case definition ...

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