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Case definition: Criteria for identifying Covid-19 in patients - 22 May

Pulse provides the most up-to-date information for GPs on coronavirus

Case definition of Covid-19

Case definitions: possible case, as of 18 May 2020

Patients who meet the following criteria (inpatient definition)

  • requiring admission to hospital (a hospital practitioner has decided that admission to hospital is required with an expectation that the patient will need to stay at least one night)


  • have either clinical or radiological evidence of pneumonia OR 
  • acute respiratory distress syndrome OR
  • a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia) in isolation or in combination with any other symptoms OR
  • influenza like illness - ie fever ≥37.8°C and at least one of the following respiratory symptoms, which must be of acute onset:
  1. persistent cough (with or without sputum)
  2. hoarseness
  3. nasal discharge or congestion
  4. shortness of breath
  5. sore throat, wheezing
  6. sneezing

Note: Clinicians should consider testing inpatients with new respiratory symptoms or fever without another cause or worsening of a pre-existing respiratory condition.

Patients who meet the following criteria and are well enough to remain in the community

  • new continuous cough OR
  • high temperature OR
  • a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)

Individuals with any of the above symptoms but who are well enough to remain in the community should follow the stay at home guidance and get tested.

Clinicians should be alert to the possibility of atypical presentations in patients who are immunocompromised.

Alternative clinical diagnoses and epidemiological risk factors should be considered.

Source: Public Health England, Covid-19: investigation and initial clinical management of possible cases [updated 22 May]

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