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NOTE: A surveillance case definition is a set of uniform criteria used to define a disease for public health surveillance. Surveillance case definitions enable public health officials to classify and count cases consistently across reporting jurisdictions. Surveillance case definitions are not intended to be used by healthcare providers for making a clinical diagnosis or determining how to meet an individual patient’s health needs.

Clinical Description

An upper respiratory tract illness characterized by sore throat, low-grade fever, and an adherent membrane of the tonsil(s), pharynx, and/or nose without other apparent cause (as reported by a health professional)

Laboratory Criteria For Diagnosis

Isolation of Corynebacterium diphtheriae from a clinical specimen

Case Classification


Meets the clinical case definition, is not laboratory confirmed, and is not epidemiologically linked to a laboratory-confirmed case


Meets the clinical case definition and is either laboratory confirmed or epidemiologically linked to a laboratory-confirmed case


Cutaneous diphtheria should not be reported.

Related Case Definition(s)