Submitting to the Syndrome Definition Library

Categorizing symptoms and diagnoses into syndromes is a fundamental component of syndromic surveillance systems that use clinical data sets. Syndromic surveillance focuses on the early symptom (prodrome) period before clinical or laboratory confirmation of a particular disease and uses both clinical and alternative data sources. Strictly defined, syndromic surveillance gathers information about patients' symptoms (e.g., cough, fever, or shortness of breath) during the early phases of illness.

What is a syndrome definition?

A syndrome definition is a set of criteria that identify visits to a healthcare facility. In syndromic surveillance, the terms queries, definitions, syndromes, subsyndromes, groupings, and classifications are often used interchangeably. A syndrome definition is comprised of one or all of the following components:

  1. Discharge diagnosis codes
    These standardized codes provide a method to search the clinically assigned diagnoses to capture records of interest. There are two coding systems commonly found in syndromic data: International Classification of Diseases, Clinical Modification (ICD CM) and Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine, Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT).
  2. Keywords
    Terms related to the topic of interest can be used to search free text fields, such as patient chief complaint, admission reason, and triage notes to capture records.
  3. Negations
    A query may define discharge diagnosis codes or keywords that should not be identified. These are used to exclude records falsely identified with the query.

How do you submit a syndrome to the library?

Syndromes can be submitted to the SDL in two ways:

  1. Submit a single syndrome (including the Syndrome Name, Description, and Definition)
  2. Submit multiple syndromes via the Syndrome Definition Bulk Upload Utility

NOTE: to submit a syndrome to the Syndrome Definition Library, you must have an account on the Surveillance Knowledge Repository and be logged in. You can register for an account here. If you already have an account, please sign in here.

Once your syndrome has been submitted, it will be reviewed by the Syndrome Definition Committee prior to publishing in the Syndrome Definition Library. This review process generally takes 2-3 weeks.


  1. Overview of Syndromic Surveillance: What is Syndromic Surveillance?, Henning, Kelly J. MMWR Supplement, September 24, 2004/ 53(Suppl):5-11.
  2. Developing, Evaluating, and Disseminating Definitions for Syndromic Surveillance in Public Health Practice: A Guidance Document, ISDS Syndrome Definition Committee, February 2019.

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