COVID-19 Term Dictionary


Keeping up with all of the new terms surrounding COVID-19 and the outbreak can be difficult. Here are some important terms to make it easier for you:

Asymptomatic: This term is used when someone has the virus but is producing or showing no symptoms.

CDC: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the nation’s health protection agency, the CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. The Centers conduct critical science and provide health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats, and respond when these arise. 

Chloroquine: A drug related to quinolone which has been used against malaria. Experiments are currently being done to see if it can help patients with COVID-19.

Community Spread: Simply put, the spread of a disease in a certain area or community.

Contact Tracing: Contact tracins is the practice of identifying and monitoring individuals who may have had contact with an infectious person.

Contagious: A disease is contagious when it spreads from one person to another by direct or indirect contact.

Coronavirus: Coronavirus is a term for a large family of viruses that include SARS and other minor to major respiratory illnesses. COVID-19 is one type of coronavirus.

COVID-19: Stands for “coronavirus 2019”. 

Epidemic: A disease is consider to be an epidemic when it affects a large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time.

Essential Services: Essential services are the services, functions, and businesses that are absolutely necessary to the functioning of a community, even during a pandemic. They maintain the health and welfare of the community. You can find out more about the City of Lubbock's specific guidelines about essential services here:

Face Masks and Coverings: There are a variety of different types of Face Masks and Coverings that can be used to slow the spread of COVID-19

  • N95 Mask: An N95 Mask has a tighter fitting mask with air filtration. These masks help prevent pollutants from entering the mask and exposing the individual with the mask.
  • Surgical Mask: A surgical mask is designed to keep pollutants in, helping prevent the wearer from spreading germs to someone else.
  • Face Covering: Face coverings are homemade or store-bought cloth masks that keep some pollutants in, helping prevent the wearer from spreading germs to someone else.

Flatten the Curve: Refers to community isolation measures, such as social distancing and sheltering at home, that keep daily number of disease cases at a manageable level.

Furlough: Temporary leave of employee due to special needs of a company or employer.

Immunocompromised: Your immune system is considered compromised when your body does not have the optimal ability to defend against illnesses, such as COVID-19. For instance, someone with cancer would be considered immunocompromised in the case of COVID-19.

Immunity: Your immunity is your ability to resist a particular infection or toxin.

Infectious: A disease is considered infectious if it is likely to be transmitted to people, organisms, etc. through the environment. 

Isolation: Isolation helps protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease. When someone is in isolation, it meals they are sick with a contagious disease and they have been separated from people who are not sick by medical professionals. See below for self-isolation.

Novel: Simply means “new”. A novel coronavirus is a strain that hasn’t been detected in humans before such as COVID-19.

Outbreak: When there is an outbreak of a disease, it means there is a higher-than-normal rate of occurrence of a disease in a given area.

Pandemic: A pandemic occrus when there is worldwide spread of a disease as in the spread of COVID-19.

Person-to-Person: This means the virus has been transmitted due to close contact between people. This can include physical contact with another person or being in close quarters with someone who has the disease when they cough or sneeze. 

PPE or Personal Protective Equipment: Protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garments or equipment designed to protect the wearer's body from injury or infection.

Quarantine: Medical professionals will place someone in quarantine when he or she has been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. When someone is in quarantine, they are separated from others who have not been exposed to the contagious disease and their movements are restricted. In the case of COVID-19, individuals are most often quarantined in their homes. See below for self-quarantine.

SARS: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. COVID-19 is a type of SARS.

Screening: Screening is a strategy used to look for risk markers of a certain disease.

Self-Quarantine/Self-Isolate: When someone self-quarantines or self-isolates, he or she chooses to stay away from any contact with other individuals for a period of time during the outbreak of a contagious disease. Usually this means remaining in one’s home and limiting contact with family members. Someone might choose to self-quarantine or self-isolate if he or she or a member of their family is at especially high-risk for the disease. Self-quarantining or self-isolating differs from isolation and quarantine which are both done under the orders of a medical professional.

Stay at Home: A stay at home order may be given by local, state, or federal government requiring individuals and families to stay in their homes except for essential activities such as going to the grocery store or the doctor. People who work in essential services, such as medical personnel may leave their homes. In some instances, you may be able to go outside but not gather in large groups and social-distancing should still be observed. In the case of a disease outbreak such as the COVID-19, a stay at home order may be given to slow community spread. You can find out more about the City of Lubbock's specific stay-at-home order here:


Shelter in Place: This is what you would be asked to do in the event of a chemical, biological or radiological contaminant being released into the environment. The public would be asked to remain where they are at the time of the shelter in place order (not to return home), to close windows and air vents, and to turn off air conditioning and heating systems, etc. A shelter in place order is different from a stay at home order and would not be used to address the COVID-19 outbreak.

Social Distancing: Social distancing is a way of preventing the spread of contagious illnesses. It means staying inside and keeping a generous amount of personal space, about 6 feet, between you and another person.

Symptomatic: Someone showing symptoms of a particular illness or disease is considered to be symptomatic. For COVID-19, this includes fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

Ventilator: A ventilator is a machine that mechanically helps a patient to breath. Sometimes it is referred to as artificial respiration.

WHO: The World Health Organization works worldwide to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable. When there is a pandemic, WHO:

  • prepares for emergencies by identifying, mitigating and managing risks,

  • prevents emergencies and support development of tools necessary during outbreaks,

  • detects and respond to acute health emergencies,

  • supports delivery of essential health services in fragile settings.

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