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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

Presence of any defect(s) or laboratory data consistent with congenital rubella infection. Infants with congenital rubella syndrome usually present with more than one sign or symptom consistent with congenital rubella infection. However, infants may present with a single defect. Hearing impairment is the most common single defect.

Clinical Criteria

An illness, usually manifesting in infancy, resulting from rubella infection in utero and characterized by signs or symptoms from the following categories:

  1. Cataracts/congenital glaucoma, congenital heart disease (most commonly patent ductus arteriosus or peripheral pulmonary artery stenosis), hearing impairment, pigmentary retinopathy.
  2. Purpura, hepatosplenomegaly, jaundice, microcephaly, developmental delay, meningoencephalitis, radiolucent bone disease.

Laboratory Criteria For Diagnosis

  • Isolation of rubella virus, OR
  • Demonstration of rubella-specific immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody, OR
  • Infant rubella antibody level that persists at a higher level and for a longer period than expected from passive transfer of maternal antibody (i.e., rubella titer that does not drop at the expected rate of a twofold dilution per month).
  • PCR positive rubella virus

Case Classification


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


* A case that is not laboratory confirmed and that has any two complications listed in item (1) of the clinical criteria or one complication from item (1) and one from item (2), and lacks evidence of any other etiology.


A clinically consistent case that is laboratory confirmed.

Other Criteria

Infection only: A case that demonstrates laboratory evidence of infection, but without any clinical symptoms or signs.

Epidemiologic Classification

Epidemiologic Classification of Internationally-Imported and U.S.-Acquired

Congenital Rubella Syndrome cases will be classified epidemiologically as internationally imported or U.S.-acquired, according to the source of infection in the mother, using the definitions below, which parallel the classifications for rubella cases.

Internationally imported case: To be classified as an internationally imported CRS case, the mother must have acquired rubella infection outside the U.S. or in the absence of documented rubella infection, the mother was outside the United States during the period when she may have had exposure to rubella that affected her pregnancy (from 21 days before conception and through the first 24 weeks of pregnancy).

U.S.-acquired case: A US-acquired case is one in which the mother acquired rubella from an exposure in the United States. U.S.-acquired cases are subclassified into four mutually exclusive groups:

  • Import-linked case: Any case in a chain of transmission that is epidemiologically linked to an internationally imported case.
  • Import-virus case: a case for which an epidemiologic link to an internationally imported case was not identified but for which viral genetic evidence indicates an imported rubella genotype, i.e., a genotype that is not occurring within the United States in a pattern indicative of endemic transmission. An endemic genotype is the genotype of any rubella virus that occurs in an endemic chain of transmission (i.e., lasting ≥12 months). Any genotype that is found repeatedly in U.S.-acquired cases should be thoroughly investigated as a potential endemic genotype, especially if the cases are closely related in time or location.
  • Endemic case: a case for which epidemiological or virological evidence indicates an endemic chain of transmission. Endemic transmission is defined as a chain of rubella virus transmission continuous for ≥12 months within the United States.
  • Unknown source case: a case for which an epidemiological or virological link to importation or to endemic transmission within the U.S. cannot be established after a thorough investigation. These cases must be carefully assessed epidemiologically to assure that they do not represent a sustained U.S.-acquired chain of transmission or an endemic chain of transmission within the U.S.

Note: Internationally imported, import-linked, and imported-virus cases are considered collectively to be import-associated cases.

States may also choose to classify cases as "out-of-state-imported" when imported from another state in the United States. For national reporting, however, cases will be classified as either internationally imported or U.S.-acquired.


*In probable cases, either or both of the eye-related findings (cataracts and congenital glaucoma) count as a single complication. In cases classified as infection only, if any compatible signs or symptoms (e.g., hearing loss) are identified later, the case is reclassified as confirmed.

The 2007 case definition appearing on this page was re-published in the 2009 CSTE position statement 09-ID-61. Thus, the 2007 and 2010 versions of the case definition are identical.

Related Case Definition(s)