COVID-19 Glossary

  • Aerosol

  • Small respiratory droplets. They tend to evaporate quickly, allowing them to stay in the air and drift or travel farther than typical, larger droplets. More forceful breathing such as exercising, yelling or singing - or specific medical procedures - can increase the number of aerosols a person gives off.

  • Antibody

  • A blood protein our body produces to fight foreign substances, such as bacteria or viruses. Antibodies destroy these invaders to protect us from diseases.

  • Antigen

  • An identified piece of a foreign substance, such as bacteria or virus, that causes disease. When a person's body recognizes these substances, it triggers the production of antibodies to destroy them.

  • Close Contact

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines close contact as being within six feet of a person infected with COVID-19 for a total of at least 15 minutes in a 24-hour period. The 15 minutes need not be one incident; they may be cumulative over numerous brief close encounters that a total of 15 minutes or more.

  • Community Immunity

  • Also known as herd immunity or population immunity. It's a situation that occurs when a large percentage of the population becomes immune to an infectious disease, reducing the opportunity for it to spread. People become immune through vaccination or contracting the disease and building the necessary antibodies to fight off subsequent infection. When more people in a community are immune, a disease cannot move as quickly and is less likely to find people who lack immunity.

  • Comorbidity

  • Two or more conditions or diseases are present at the same time in one person. If a person becomes infected with COVID-19, each pre-existing condition is a comorbidity.

    According to the CDC, people with the following conditions are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19:

    • Cancer
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    • Down syndrome
    • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
    • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
    • Obesity or severe obesity (body mass index of 30 or higher)
    • Pregnancy
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Smoking
    • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Coronavirus

  • Any member of a family of viruses known to cause various diseases, ranging from common colds to severe illness, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and COVID-19. The virus that causes COVID-19 is known as SARS-CoV-2, which is sometimes called the novel coronavirus because it is new.

  • COVID-19

  • The name of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.

  • Droplet

  • Tiny particles of moisture, mucus and bacteria that are expelled through our nose or mouth when we exhale, talk, laugh, cough, sneeze, etc. Droplets can be microscopic and travel from a few inches to several yards.

  • Epidemic

  • The rapid and abnormally high spread of a disease within a specific geographical area or population. More significant than an outbreak.

  • Exposure

  • The CDC defines exposure as contact with infectious agents (such as bacteria or viruses) in a manner that promotes transmission and increases the likelihood of disease.

  • Fever

  • A fever occurs when your body temperature exceeds its normal range, which is between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit for most people. It is most often brought on by illness and is one of the ways our body fights infection. The medical community generally considers a reading of 100.4 to 102.2 as a low-grade fever. A temperature above 102.2 may indicate a more severe infection.

  • Herd Immunity

  • See "community immunity."

  • Immunity

  • Protection against infection due to antibodies in our immune system. Immunity can be natural or acquired, usually either through vaccination or by contracting the disease. Active immunity is typically permanent. Passive immunity is acquired by antibodies from another person, such as from a mother to her newborn child or animal. Passive immunity is not permanent.

  • Immunization

  • The process of becoming immune. This occurs by acquiring appropriate antibodies, usually through a vaccine or by contracting the disease.

  • Immunosuppression

  • Efficiency of the immune system is reduced and unable to protect the body from infectious disease. This condition can be caused by other diseases (such as HIV or cancer), insufficient nutrition or medical treatments (such as chemotherapy). A person in this condition is immunosuppressed.

  • Infection

  • The presence of one or more agents (bacteria, virus, etc.) in or on the body.

  • Infectious

  • Ability of an infected person to spread a disease to another person or animal.

  • Isolation

  • Separation of an infected person from other people. At times, when separation is not possible, it may refer to the use of protective apparel such as gowns, gloves and masks to reduce the risk of coming in contact with contaminated people or items.

  • Live Vaccine

  • A vaccine that uses a live virus that is weakened enough to produce an immune response without causing severe effects of the disease. According to the CDC, licensed live vaccines in the United States include some forms of influenza, plus measles, mumps, smallpox and more.

  • Masks

  • Facemasks help prevent the spread of disease. Primarily, a facemask helps contain droplets expelled when you exhale, talk, cough, sneeze, etc., and protect other people. Depending on the type of mask, it might also offer some protection from coming in contact with droplets emitted by another person. Different mask types include:

    • Disposable - generally a paper or one-layer mask worn one time, briefly, and disposed of as soon as it is taken off.
    • Cloth - made of cloth and capable of being washed for reuse. Cloth masks should include at least two layers and be cleaned daily.
    • Medical/surgical masks - Specially made face coverings that include filters. Supplies should be reserved for use by health care professionals.

     

  • Mitigation

  • Action taken in an attempt to reduce the effects of something seen as harmful.

  • Morbidity Rate

  • The proportion of a population affected by an illness.

  • Outbreak

  • The CDC defines an outbreak as an occurrence of disease cases above what would usually be expected in a defined community, geographical area or season, but in lower than epidemic numbers.

  • Pandemic

  • A global epidemic, such as COVID-19.

  • Physical Distancing

  • The practice of keeping a minimum distance between individual people to limit the spread of disease. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the recommended minimum distance people should maintain between each other is six feet. "Physical distancing" refers specifically to physical space. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with "social distancing," but experts emphasize that "social distancing" pertains to social boundaries.

  • Positivity Rate

  • A measure of how many people test positive for COVID-19 among all people who were tested. It does not measure the percentage of people in a community who are infected. The CDC formula for determining positivity rate: The number of positive tests is divided by the number of total tests. That result is multiplied by 100.

  • Quarantine

  • Keeping a person who has been exposed to the disease - and who, therefore, might be infected - separate from others to prevent potential spread.

  • SARS-CoV-2

  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is the technical name for the virus that causes COVID-19. The "2" indicates it is the second SARS-CoV virus identified by health experts.

  • Social Distancing

  • Includes the use of physical distancing or boundaries, along with being aware of your surroundings. Involves decision-making on the risk of being in a social or public situation versus staying at home. Examples of social-distancing decisions would be choosing outdoor venues over indoors and limiting the number of persons with whom you socialize in person, in addition to maintaining six feet of physical distancing and wearing masks.

  • Three Ws

  • An easy way to remember three basic steps to help slow the spread of COVID-19: Wash your hands. Watch your physical distance. Wear a mask.

  • Virus

  • A tiny organism that causes disease. A virus cannot be treated with antibiotics, which are used to kill some bacterial infections. Your body must develop antibodies - or acquire antibodies from a vaccine - to overcome or mitigate a viral attack.

  • Wash Your Hands

  • Good hand hygiene helps prevent the spread of disease. Proper handwashing technique involves lukewarm water, a good lather of soap and 20 seconds of thorough washing, making sure to scrub all areas of the hand: front, back and between the fingers. In the absence of soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers or alcohol hand wipes are an appropriate alternative.