Coronavirus

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. On Thursday, March 5, 2020, Tennessee's Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey confirmed the state's first case of the new coronavirus. (NIAID-RML via AP)

What's the difference between isolation and quarantine? How about the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic? What does COVID-19 even stand for?

With coronavirus in the daily lives of Coloradans, medical terms and acronyms are being presented like they're a second language. But what do they even mean? 

Here are some common terms and definitions that you should know:

COVID-19: This is the official name given by The World Health Organization to the new coronavirus strain causing the most recent outbreaks. According to the CDC, 'CO' stands for corona, 'VI' stands for virus, 'D' stands for disease, and '19' stands for the year the strain was first found in humans.

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Novel: Novel just means new, according to the CDC. This strain is being labeled 'novel' because it has not been seen before, and has not been identified in humans previously.

Social distancing: Johns Hopkins Medicine defines social distancing as "deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness." The goal is to limit community spread among individuals by having as few community gatherings as possible. (Don't worry, you can still go outside.) UCHealth suggests people be courteous of others and stay a close distance away from others.

Close distance: The CDC recommends that while practicing social distancing, individuals avoid coming within a 'close distance' of others around them. Although this term can mean various distances, John Hopkins Medicine recommends a six-foot distance. 

Outbreak: The World Health Organization defines an outbreak as "the occurrence of disease cases in excess of normal expectancy." Essentially, if more cases of a disease are seen than are expected, it is considered an outbreak.

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Epidemic: Epidemics occur when there is "an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected," according to the CDC. Epidemics are more localized than are pandemics.

Pandemic: Pandemics occur over multiple countries and often over different continents, while affecting a large number of people says the CDC.

One of the most recent and well-known pandemics was the 2013 to 2016 Ebola virus, which according to the CDC killed over 11,000 people worldwide.

As of March 18, there are over 200,000 cases worldwide, and just over 8,700 deaths reported.

Community spread: Community spread refers to when a patient is infected with an illness, and are unsure of where or when they contracted it, according to the CDC.

Social distancing and quarantines are common techniques to help slow the rate of community spread.

Mitigation: According to UCHealth, mitigation is a way to help prevent the spread of a disease past what has already been infected. Social distancing is an example of a mitigation technique.

Presumptive positive: As defined by the CDC, a presumptive positive case is when an individual is tested locally, but has not had a sample tested by the CDC to confirm.

Generally speaking the majority of presumptive cases will come back positive from the CDC, however in some rare cases, the test may come back negative.

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Isolation: The CDC says that isolation is separating an individual who is known to be sick from others who are not sick to help prevent the spread of a disease.

Quarantine: Quarantine, as suggested again by the CDC, is when individuals restrict their contact with others when they may have been in contact with an infection disease. The quarantine period is intended to see if such individual becomes sick.

At-risk group: At-risk groups are most commonly age-groups or health-groups who are considered to be at a higher risk of either getting sick, or having severe side-effects of a disease. 

COVID-19 risk-groups include people who have chronic medical conditions, and older adults.

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