Coronavirus (COVID-19) glossary: 21 terms to know

The 2019 novel coronavirus disease – also known as COVID-19 – has introduced many new terms to our vocabulary: from “social distancing” to “community spread.” But what exactly do these words mean? What’s the difference between an “outbreak,” an “epidemic” and a “pandemic”? What about “self-isolation” and “self-quarantine”? And what does “flattening the curve” mean? We spoke with our infectious diseases and infection control specialist Roy Chemaly, M.D. Here are the words he wants everyone to know. Asymptomatic: not showing any signs of illness. The most common COVID-19 symptoms  are fever, cough, and shortness of breath, but you can still be contagious without showing any symptoms. Community spread: Used when the source of someone’s coronavirus infection is unknown. In the case of COVID-19, this means it was not due to recent travel to a high-risk area, or exposure to someone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Contagious: Communicable, or able to be passed from one person to another. COVID-19 is thought to be spread primarily through direct contact with an infected individual, by inhaling the microscopic droplets sprayed into the air during a cough or sneeze, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth. Coronavirus: A type of microscopic organism that causes illness in humans. “Corona” alludes to the tiny spikes found on the surface of the virus, which scientists thought resembled a crown, when seen through a microscope. COVID-19: A shorthand way of referring to the novel COrona VIrus Disease, an upper respiratory infection that was first identified in 2019. The germ that causes it is formally known as SARS-CoV-2. Epidemic: A cluster...