A Coronavirus Glossary

By: Cheryl

Words in Medicine don’t always mean what they mean in everyday English, and sometimes may cause confusion. In advancing knowledge of the new disease for better preparedness, here are some of the scientific terms being used around the virus and what they actually mean.


  • COVID-19: the name of the disease caused by infection with the new coronavirus.
  • Sars-CoV-2: the name of the virus.
  • Epidemic: a disease rapidly spreading to many people at the same time.
  • Pandemic: an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population. COVID-19 is a pandemic.
  • Contained: restrained.
  • Probable Case: a person who has fever of over 38 °C (100.4 °F) and meets one of the preconditions of getting the disease. Probable cases are not medically tested.
  • Presumptive Case: a person that’s already tested positive by a certified local lab. A presumptive case is NOT the same as a probable case.
  • Confirmed Case: a presumptive case that’s taken to and tested positive by a national health authority.
  • Mild Case: mild cases include those involving lung infection, but mild to no signs of pneumonia. Medically speaking, even if you have lung infection, as long as you don’t need assistance breathing, you can still be a mild case.
  • Aerosol: a system where particles are so small that they suspend in the air. Aerosol transmissions are different from droplet transmissions. Surgical face masks are more effective in providing protection from droplet transmissions. N95 respirators offer better protection from aerosol transmissions due to tighter fitting. In the case of COVID-19, most transmissions happen through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing. Aerosol transmission is possible through long-time exposure in enclosed environments.
  • CT Scan: Computed Tomography scan. A method proven to be more effective than X-ray in detecting COVID-19.
  • Super-Spreader: a small percentage of people who transmit diseases to far more people than the majority do. It’s possible they may not show any symptom during the spreading of the virus. Super-spreaders of the coronavirus have been found in many countries.
  • Incubation Period: the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. The incubation period of the coronavirus ranges from 1 to 14 days. During incubation period, carriers of virus are capable of transmitting it to others, which is why self-quarantine after travelling to an infected region is required.
  • Community Spread: means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
  • Quarantine: separating people who have been exposed to a contagious disease. This includes and applies to people who feel well and are not showing symptoms.
  • Antibiotic: does NOT help preventing COVID-19. Antibiotics works on bacteria, not viruses. Bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites are four different types of pathogens.