Understanding terminology associated with COVID-19


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- As we struggle to cope with COVID-19, many also struggle with terminology associated with the virus.

The coronavirus has introduced to a lot of new words and phrases.

Some of them are self-explanatory, but others are terms we might not be familiar with—so we’re here to help.

What is herd immunity?

Herd immunity is when a large portion of the populace (or the herd) becomes immune to the disease making its spread unlikely because the whole community is protected, not just those who are immune.

The percentage of a population that needs to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity varies from disease to disease. The general rule of thumb is, the more contagious a disease, the more people need to be immune to be protected from it.

Let’s use an example that is pretty common: Measles is highly contagious, so it’s estimated that 94% of the population must be immune to give us herd immunity from that virus.

At this point, no one is sure what percentage of people need to be immune to COVID-19 to give us herd immunity from that disease.

Self isolation vs. self quarantine

They are not the same, but people mistakenly use them interchangeably.

Self-quarantine means you must stay at least 6 feet from all other members of your household, wash your hands frequently, have no visitors, and must not share personal items like towels or utensils.

If COVID-19 is detected, self-isolation may become necessary.

Isolation means keeping infected individuals away from those not infected. Self-Isolation can take place at home or at a hospital.

Personal protective equipment needs to be used to care for patients in isolation.

What does endemic mean?

That means the disease is always with us, at varying levels all the time.

The common cold and flu are endemic. Even with a vaccine, we can’t wipe out the flu.

There are some scientists who worry COVID-19 may become endemic, even if we develop a vaccine for it.

What is fatality risk?

Sometimes called the fatality rate, this is the percentage of people who die from a disease compared to the number diagnosed with the disease during the same time frame.

When COVID-19 first emerged, it was believed the fatality risk was between 2 and 3 and a half percent, but more recent studies indicate those infected by the disease have a 1.4 per cent chance of dying.

For a complete glossary of coronavirus terms, click here.

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