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Coronavirus

COVID-19: A Glossary

Whether you’re reading the news, watching TV or scrolling through social media, a lot of information about COVID-19 is coming your way. The words used might be confusing and intimidating. Here are quick explanations of some commonly used COVID-19 terms.

Center for Disease Control (CDC): The United States' health protection agency with the mission to save lives and protect people from health threats.

Community spread: The spread of a disease for which the source of infection is unknown.

Confirmed case: A person who tested positive for COVID-19, confirmed by the CDC.

Congregate settings: Crowded public places where close contact with others may occur, such as malls, theaters and stadiums.

Coronavirus: A large family of viruses that includes respiratory illnesses. "Corona," meaning crown in Latin, refers to the shape of the virus under a microscope.

COVID-19: COVID-19 stands for "coronavirus disease 2019" and describes the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Epidemic: The occurrence of more cases of disease than expected in a given area or among a specific group of people of a particular period of time.

Flatten (Flattening) the curve: Refers to the potential success of social distancing measures to prevent surges in illness that could overwhelm health care systems.

Incubation period: The amount of time it takes for someone who is infected to start showing symptoms. For COVID-19, symptoms might not appear for 14 days after exposure.

Pandemic: A worldwide spread of a new disease

Person Under Investigation (PUI): Any person who is under investigation for having the virus that causes COVID-19. The person shows COVID-19-like symptoms, but is not confirmed to have the virus.

Presumptive positive case: A person for whom the initial test for the virus by a public health lab was positive, but not yet confirmed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Quarantine: A restriction on people or groups who don’t have symptoms, but who are presumed to have been exposed to a contagious disease. Quarantine prevents contact with others so that they don’t unknowingly infect anyone.

Self-observation: Being observant of fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Based on CDC guidelines, if you think you may have COVID-19 and are experiencing minor symptoms, Memorial Hermann recommends you self-quarantine at home for at least 14 days and utilize virtual care options to consult with a healthcare provider. For severe symptoms, call ahead to your local Emergency Center prior to arriving or dial 911 if you need emergent care.

Social distancing: A public health practice that aims to prevent sick people from coming in close contact with healthy people in order to reduce opportunities for disease transmission. It can include large-scale measures like canceling group events or closing public spaces, as well as individual decisions such as avoiding crowds.

Symptomatic: When a person is showing symptoms of a particular illness or a disease. For COVID-19, that would include symptoms like cough, fever or shortness of breath.

World Health Organization (WHO): A specialized agency under the United Nations concerned with world public health. The WHO is responsible for the World Health Report, the World Health Survey, and World Health Day.

The information in this article was accurate as of March 23, 2020.