Glossary of COVID-19 Terms
Basic Reproduction Number
This is an epidemiologic metric, also called R-Naught, used to describe the contagiousness or transmissibility of infectious agents.
This refers to identifying people who have been in direct contact with anyone testing positive for COVID-19. Known as “contacts,” these individuals are asked to self-quarantine and watch for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days from the last day were in contact with the person who tested positive for the virus. If the “contact” develops COVID-19 symptoms, they are asked to self-isolate. The new patient’s contacts are then identified, quarantined and watched for 14 days. Contact tracing is designed to find new cases quickly so people can be quarantined or isolated to combat the spread of COVID-19.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The coronavirus is responsible for the (COVID-19) outbreak that started in 2019 – a new strain called SARS-CoV-2. It was identified in 2020 and had not been previously identified in humans.
Emergency Warning Signs
The CDC states that emergency warning signs for COVID-19 that warrant more immediate medical attention include difficulty breathing, significant shortness of breath or high fever.
Flattening the Curve
This phrase refers to measures designed to combat the exponential curve that is predicted for COVID-19 without those measures. WHO discussed the phenomenon in this transcript of a virtual March 11 press conference.
The CDC recommends frequently washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds as well as the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers to prevent infection with the virus.
Certain individuals are at higher risk for the COVID-19 than others, according to the CDC.
The CDC suggests having a household plan that includes planning to care for people who may be at greater risk, identifying aid organizations, creating an emergency contact list and more.
There are varying estimates of what the incubation period for COVID-19 is, according to the CDC, but is currently estimated at four days.
Starting at age 60, the CDC states there is an increasing risk of disease and that risk increases with age. The highest risk of serious illness and death is in people older than 80 years. Listen to the audio or view a transcript of a March 10 CDC telebriefing about this phenomenon.
WHO defines a pandemic as the worldwide spread of a new disease.
Positive vs. Presumptive Positive COVID-19 Test
A positive COVID-19 test means that the test has lab confirmation, either from a state or local laboratory or the CDC. A presumptive positive COVID-19 test means that a local test has been positive but that the CDC or a state or local laboratory has not confirmed it.
People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at an elevated risk of exposure. The level of risk depends on the location, the CDC suggests.
The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2,” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”), according to the CDC.
The CDC suggests people remain alert to possible symptoms, take their temperatures, seek advice during self-observation periods and be prepared to engage in several types of self-monitoring, with and without delegated supervision.
Self-quarantining is designed to restrict the movement of healthy people who may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The CDC suggests staying at home for 14 days from the exposure.
A diagnosis of COVID-19 should trigger isolation to separate ill persons with the virus from those who are healthy, states the CDC, which has specific suggestions for self-isolation.
If you get sick with COVID-19 and are not a high-risk patient or have emergency warning symptoms, here is how the CDC suggests you care for yourself.
Maintaining a distance of approximately 6 feet from others to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19.
The CDC states that symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Testing (see Positive vs. Presumptive Positive COVID-19 Test and High Risk)
People who believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop symptoms should call their health care provider for advice, while people at a higher risk of infection should call their doctor even if they have mild symptoms.