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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 illness of newborns resulting from rubella infection in utero and characterized by symptoms from the following categories:

  1. Cataracts/congenital glaucoma, congenital heart disease, loss of hearing, pigmentary retinopathy
  2. Associated symptoms may be: purpura, splenomegaly, jaundice, microcephaly, mental retardation, meningoencephalitis, radiolucent bone disease

Clinical Criteria

Presence of any defects or laboratory data consistent with congenital rubella infection (as reported by a health professional)

Laboratory Criteria For Diagnosis

  • Isolation of rubella virus, OR
  • Demonstration of rubella-specific immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody, OR
  • An infant's rubella antibody level that persists above and beyond that expected from passive transfer of maternal antibody (i.e., rubella HI titer that does not drop at the expected rate of a twofold dilution per month)

Case Classification


A case with some compatible clinical findings but not meeting the criteria for a compatible case


A case that is not laboratory confirmed and that has any two complications listed in (1) above, or one complication from (1) and one from (2)


A clinically compatible case that is laboratory confirmed


In compatible cases, either or both of the eye-related findings (cataracts and congenital glaucoma) count as a single complication.

Related Case Definition(s)