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Changes to China’s case definition of COVID-19 results in a spike in cases, says GlobalData

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A new case definition for COVID-19 in China has resulted in a spike in the number of reported cases of the disease, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Previously, China only reported laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, a change to the case definition of the disease in China now includes both laboratory-confirmed cases and clinically diagnosed cases.

Nanthida Nanthavong, Epidemiologist at GlobalData, commented: “During an outbreak, a clear case definition should be developed early in order to aid in an effective epidemiological investigation on the disease. However, early case definitions may be broad due to the lack of information. It is not uncommon for case definitions to be revised and for patients to be reclassified. In this particular outbreak, the case definition of COVID-19 has been broadened by China to include clinically diagnosed cases that are based on symptoms and exposure.”

“The change in the COVID-19 case definition to include clinically confirmed cases reflects the urgency to understand the magnitude of the disease and treat suspected cases early. It will also allow investigators to implement control and prevention measures as early as possible and gain a better understanding of the cause of the disease. However, diagnosing a case based only on symptoms can present additional challenges such as the inclusion of other illnesses that have similar symptoms to COVID-19, which may present challenges when interpreting numbers.”

“As research on COVID-19 continues to grow, the case definition may change and become more specific. As of now, the broad case definition allows investigators in China to be more inclusive of all types of COVID-19 cases in order to provide early treatment and gather more data on the disease.”