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J Infect Dis. 2004 May 1;189 Suppl 1:S153-9.

Evaluation of the measles clinical case definition.

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  • 1National Immunization Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA.


An accurate system of identifying and classifying suspected measles cases is critical for the measles surveillance system in the United States. To examine the performance of the clinical case definition in predicting laboratory confirmation of suspected cases of measles, we reviewed 4 studies conducted between 1981 and 1994. A clinical case definition was examined that included a generalized maculopapular rash, fever (>or=38.3 degrees C, if measured), and either a cough, coryza, or conjunctivitis. Serological confirmation of measles was done either by hemagglutination inhibition assay, complement fixation assay, or enzyme immunoassays. The positive predictive value of the clinical case definition decreased from 74% to 1% as incidence decreased from 171 cases/100000 population to 1.3 cases/100000 population. Sensitivity was high, and for the larger studies with the most precise estimates, sensitivity was 76%-88%. The low positive predictive value of the clinical case definition in settings of low incidence demonstrates that serological confirmation is essential to ensure an accurate diagnosis of measles when measles is rare.

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