With the Covid-19 pandemic, there are so many new things we need to grow accustomed to. We’re physically avoiding many of the people and places we love, and too many are now being burdened by the sudden economic crisis that has arisen alongside the pandemic.
But there are also a lot of new, and confusing, terms we’re hearing about.
It’s okay if you’re unsure of the difference between a respirator and a ventilator, or the distinction between isolation and quarantine. We hope this glossary of pandemic terms will help.
Virus and outbreak terms
SARS-CoV-2 —The formal, scientific name of the virus that’s causing this pandemic. (It’s short for “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.”)
Covid-19 — The disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. If you’re sick, you have Covid-19. You were infected by SARS-CoV-2. (If you’re still confused, think about how the HIV virus causes AIDS.)
Coronavirus —This is a family of viruses that SARS-CoV-2 belongs to (technically they are known as betacoronaviruses, but you can just say coronavirus). The 2003 SARS outbreak was a coronavirus, as was MERS in 2012. They are named coronaviruses because of their shape. When viewed through a microscope, the individual virus looks like a sphere surrounded by a spiky crown (or corona).
Endemic — A disease that regularly infects humans, like the flu, strep throat, or any common illness. There are four coronavirus strains that commonly infect humans, usually manifesting as colds. It’s possible that SARS-CoV-2 becomes endemic, too.
Pandemic — A worldwide spread of a new disease. Most famous, perhaps, is the 1918 flu pandemic that is believed to have infected one in three people on the planet. Pandemic diseases can become endemic. The World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
Epidemic — A disease that’s spreading over a wide area. An epidemic is a less severe designation than a pandemic, but there is an overlap between the two terms. And yes, it’s a bit confusing: “While a pandemic may be characterized as a type of epidemic, you would not say that an epidemic is a type of pandemic,” Merriam-Webster explains. The 2015-2016 spread of the Zika virus through South and Central America and the Caribbean was an epidemic…
Read this incredibly helpful article on Vox.com here: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2020/3/27/21190774/ventilator-respirator-quarantine-isolation-definitions-covid-19-pandemic-terms