Thursday, 24 September, 2020

Coronavirus: Intensive care and other key terms explained



The coronavirus pandemic has introduced dozens of new words and phrases to daily life, from social distancing to herd immunity. But what do they all mean?

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Coronavirus translator

What do all the terms mean?

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  • Asymptomatic

    A person who has a disease but is displaying no symptoms of that illness. A study of one village in Italy suggests 50-75% of Covid-19 cases there could be asymptomatic.

  • Containment phase

    The first part of the UK’s strategy to deal with coronavirus involved trying to catch cases early and trace anyone who had been in close contact

  • Coronavirus

    A generic name for a group of viruses which cause illness and disease in humans and animals. The disease caused can be severe or mild. The common cold and influenza (flu) are examples of coronaviruses.

  • Covid-19

    Covid-19 is the name of the specific disease caused by the type of coronavirus first detected in Wuhan in China in late 2019. It primarily affects the lungs.

  • Delay phase

    The second part of the UK strategy to deal with coronavirus involves delaying its spread by introducing ‘social distancing’ where people avoid close contact with others by working from home, avoiding public transport and restricting major events.

  • Flatten the curve

    Describes measures to prevent a very high number of cases of disease occurring at the same time and potentially overloading health services. By slowing transmission rates through measures like social distancing, cases take place over a longer period of time and hospitals remain within capacity – the ‘peak’ of cases is flattened into a smoother curve on a chart.

  • Flu

    Flu is a virus which routinely causes disease in humans and animals. There are two main types or strains of flu, A and B. These are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics.

  • Herd immunity

    Describes how the spread of a disease can be limited by a certain number of people (or animals) being exposed to it and acquiring immunity, therefore slowing its spread.

  • Immune

    A person whose body can withstand or fend off disease is said to be immune to that disease. Once a person has recovered from Covid-19, they are thought to have some immunity to the disease – that is, they cannot get it again – for a certain period of time. However how long immunity lasts is not known, and there have been some reports of people testing positive for a second time.

  • Incubation period

    The period of time between catching a disease and the body starting to display symptoms.

  • Lockdown

    Any restriction on movement or daily life, where public buildings are closed and people urged to remain at home behind closed doors. Lockdowns have been imposed in several countries as part of drastic efforts to control the spread of disease.

  • Mitigation phase

    The fourth part of the UK’s strategy to deal with coronavirus involves mitigating the impact of a high number of case on public services. This could mean the NHS stopping all non-critical care and police only responding to major crimes and emergencies.

  • NHS 111

    The NHS’s 24-hour phone line which offers medical advice to anyone who rings it. Anyone who suspects they may have coronavirus symptoms is asked to call NHS 111 rather than attend a GP surgery or hospital A&E.

  • Outbreak

    Multiple cases of a disease occuring rapidly, either in a cluster or in multiple locations, is known as an outbreak.

  • Pandemic

    An epidemic of serious disease spreading rapidly in several countries simultaneously is known as a pandemic.

  • Quarantine

    Means the isolation of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease to prevent it spreading to others.

  • Sars

    Sars or SARS refers to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, a type of coronavirus which emerged in Asia in 2003.

  • Self-isolation

    Means staying inside and avoiding all contact with other people with the aim of preventing any possible spread of disease.

  • Social distancing

    Taking measures to avoid coming into direct contact with others. This can mean avoiding any social gatherings, and in daily life, keeping a distance of at least 2 metres from other people.

  • State of emergency

    Usually refers to measures taken by a government to restrict daily life while it deals with a crisis. This can involve closing schools and workplaces, restricting the movement of people and even possibly deploying the armed forces to support regular emergency services.

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms are any outward physical sign of disease, such as a cough, sore throat or fever. They are triggered by the body’s immune system as it attempts to fight off the infection.

  • Vaccine

    A substance which causes the body to produce antibodies, which fight off a disease, and gives immunity against further infection.

  • Virus

    A tiny agent which replicates inside the living cells of any organism. Viruses can cause these cells to die and interupt the body’s normal chemical processes, causing disease.

Main story continues below.

Some key terms

Covid-19

The disease caused by the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. It primarily affects the lungs.

Flatten the curve

Health experts use a line on a chart to show numbers of new coronavirus cases. If a lot of people get the virus in a short period of time, the line might rise sharply and look a bit like a mountain. However, taking measures to reduce infections can spread cases out over a longer period and means the “curve” is flatter. This makes it easier for health systems to cope.

Lockdown

Restrictions on movement or daily life, where public buildings are closed and people told to stay at home. Lockdowns have been imposed in several countries as part of drastic efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Pandemic

An epidemic of serious disease spreading rapidly in many countries simultaneously.

Self-isolation

Staying inside and avoiding all contact with other people, with the aim of preventing the spread of a disease.

Social distancing

Keeping away from other people, with the aim of slowing down transmission of a disease. The government advises not seeing friends or relatives other than those you live with, working from home where possible and avoiding public transport.

Virus

A tiny agent that copies itself inside the living cells of any organism. Viruses can cause these cells to die and interrupt the body’s normal chemical processes, causing disease.



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