Vocabularies have increased in the past few weeks, with terms such as “coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” and “social distancing” becoming commonplace in the lexicon. If you have wondered what all these terms mean, read the list that follows to help shed some light on these new additions to our vocabulary.
• Asymptomatic transmission: the way in which someone who is not showing signs of a disease can still be a carrier and spread the virus to others.
• Containment: keeping people within a certain area from traveling and possibly passing on the virus.
• Coronavirus: a type of human virus that can lead to an upper respiratory infection (URI). Some coronaviruses can cause the common cold, while others can lead to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV) and the even more severe Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV). Under a microscope, the coronavirus causing the current pandemic looks like a sphere with spikes that resemble crowns, hence the name “corona.” This coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, is known as SARS-CoV-2.
• COVID-19: an abbreviation of “2019 novel coronavirus,” the disease one gets from contracting the current strain of coronavirus, SARS CoV-2. Its symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and even pneumonia and death in more severe cases. The “CO” stands for “corona,” the “VI” stands for “virus,” and the “D” means “disease.”
• Epidemic: a large outbreak rapidly spreading from community to community within a defined region or population.
• Flattening the curve: the use of protective practices to slow the rate of COVID-19 infections so that hospitals have enough space, supplies, and staff for all patients needing care throughout the duration of the pandemic.
• Isolation: the process of separating a person who is known or believed to have been infected with a disease from others, stemming the spread of the illness. Isolated people typically stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom from housemates.
• Outbreak: a sudden increase in the number of occurrences of a disease at a certain place and point in time.
• Pandemic: a rampant epidemic that spreads across multiple countries, regions, and continents at the same time. Coronavirus is considered a pandemic.
• Presumptive positive: This occurs when a person tests positive for the virus locally, but the results are not yet confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
• Quarantine: restricting the movement of people who appear to be healthy but may have been exposed to the virus and are, therefore, able to pass it on.
• Self-quarantine: a practice of self-isolation of at least 14 days by people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus and are at risk for coming down with COVID-19.
• Social distancing: avoiding mass gatherings and increasing the physical space between people in order to avoid spreading illness. Six feet is considered a safe distance between two individuals.
• Vaccine: One of the most effective ways of preventing disease, a vaccine is a strain of a virus or bacteria that is inserted into a living being and then trains the body’s immune system to recognize the invader and fight off the disease. There is not yet a vaccine for the current coronavirus, but scientists are working to develop one.
• Zoonotic: used to describe an illness that is transmissible from animals to humans. Like SARS and MERS, the current coronavirus is believed to have originated in animals.
Sources: CDC, “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html; CDC, “Coronavirus Fact Sheet,” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf ; Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Coronavirus, Social Distancing and Self-Quarantining,” https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-social-distancing-and-self-quarantine; and CNN, “Pandemic, COVID-19, and All the Coronavirus Terms You Need to Know,” https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/05/us/coronavirus-definitions-terms-glossary-trnd/index.html