The COVID-19 virus outbreak has brought with it a lot of new terminology, and not everyone knows what these terms mean. It is important to be informed in order to keep yourself safe. This glossary from UVAHealth provides some terms you need to know to help you navigate life in 2020:
Asymptomatic: not showing any symptoms (signs of disease or illness).
Some people without any symptoms still have and can spread the coronavirus. They are asymptomatic but contagious.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): United States federal health protection organization.
Communicable: similar in meaning to ”contagious.”
This term is used to describe diseases that can be spread or transmitted from one person to another.
Community spread: the spread of an illness within a particular location, like a neighborhood or town.
In community spread, there is no clear source of contact or infection.
Confirmed case: someone tested and confirmed to have COVID-19.
Congregate settings: public places that can get crowded and where contact with infected people can happen.
This includes places like malls, theaters and grocery stores.
Coronavirus: a family of related viruses, many of them causing respiratory illnesses.
Coronaviruses cause COVID-19, SARS, MERS and some strains of influenza or flu. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is officially called SARS-CoV-2, which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.
COVID-19: the name of the illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
COVID-19 stands for “coronavirus disease 2019.”
Epidemic: a situation in which more cases of disease than expected happen in a given area or to a group of people.
Epidemiology: the branch of medicine that studies how diseases happen and spread in communities of people.
A person who studies epidemiology is called an epidemiologist.
Flattening the curve: controlling the rate of new cases of COVID-19.
The “curve” refers to a graph showing the number of cases of COVID-19 that happen over a period of time. Many cases happening in a short period of time create a graph that looks like a tall spike.
By using protective measures, we can slow down how many new cases happen. This is the “flattening” of the curve — on the graph, the flattened curve winds up looking more like a gentle hill.
Too many new cases occurring in a short time can create a serious problem. Hospital systems only have so many supplies, like beds and PPE (defined below). There are also only so many doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. Too many patients at one time can overwhelm these resources. This means sick and injured people may not get needed treatment.
Flattening the curve reduces the numbers of people needing healthcare at one time. This allows hospitals to treat patients throughout the pandemic.
Immunity: your body’s ability to resist or fight off an infection.
Your immune system is a network of cells throughout your body that helps you avoid getting infected and get better when you are infected.
Immunocompromised: describes someone who has an immune system that cannot resist or fight off infections as well as most people.
Also called immune-compromised or immunodeficient. This can be caused by several illnesses. Some treatments for illnesses can also cause someone to be immunocompromised.
Incubation period: the time it takes for someone with an infection to start showing symptoms.
For COVID-19, symptoms appear 2-14 days after infection.
Outbreak: a sudden increase of a specific illness in a small area.
Pandemic: when a new disease spreads to many countries around the world.
PPE: stands for personal protective equipment, including masks, face shields, gloves, gowns and other coverings that healthcare workers use to prevent the spread of infection to themselves and other patients.
Person under investigation (PUI): when a health provider suspects a person has the coronavirus, but no test has confirmed the infection.
Presumptive positive case: when a person tests positive for the coronavirus, but the CDC has not confirmed the case.
Quarantine: keeps people away from each other to prevent the spread of disease.
Sometimes called “isolation.” Stay-at-home orders are a type of quarantine.
Governments sometimes order quarantines to keep healthy people from exposure to infected people. They give rules for behavior and boundaries of movement.
Screening: a series of basic questions about your health condition and recent history.
Screening may also include other common healthcare procedures, like taking your temperature.
This is not the same as a coronavirus test. This step helps healthcare workers to decide if you actually need a coronavirus test.
Self-isolation: separating yourself when you are sick from healthy individuals to prevent spreading illness. Also called “self-quarantine.”
Shelter in place: an order for people to stay where they are and not leave for their own protection.
A stay-at-home order is a kind of shelter-in-place order.
Social distancing: putting physical space between yourself and other people at all times.
The goal of social distancing is to slow down how fast an infection spreads.
Stay-at-home orders are a way that the government can enforce social distancing, also called physical distancing.
The CDC recommends keeping at least six feet between you and others around you in public. Social distancing also includes avoiding crowds and groups in public.
Symptomatic: when a person shows signs of illness.
Fever, cough and shortness of breath are the main symptoms of COVID-19. Call your healthcare provider or a UVA clinic if you have any of the symptoms.
Ventilator: a machine that supplies oxygen to a patient with severe lung issues.
People with severe cases of COVID-19 cannot provide enough oxygen to their body. Their lungs are too limited.
A ventilator machine requires a specialist or respiratory therapist. It is more invasive than an oxygen mask. Many hospitals do not have a supply of ventilators big enough for a COVID-19 outbreak.
World Health Organization (WHO): United Nations organization that monitors and protects public health around the world.
Zoonotic: a type of disease that was originally detected in animals but is now infecting people too.
For more information about the coronavirus, or to get accurate updates, visit cdc.gov. For information about what Stages 1-5 mean in terms of state mandates, please refer to the graphic below.