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Following all the COVID-19 Lingo? Don’t Worry, We Got Your Back

Oct 19, 2020 10:05:58 AM / by John Kouten, CEO

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been slammed with a new vocabulary. CDC press releases, news reports, and the ever-popular White House press conferences are chock full of terms and phrases that were previously alien to us earthlings – Coronavirus, COVID-19, and the scariest – “shelter in place.” I can hear the TP and paper towels vanishing off grocery store shelves again!


Serving the life science industry as a career PR guy, I shudder to think of the number of average Americans who are not following along. We hope the following vocabulary list helps. Please share any other COVID-19 related medical, scientific, and downright weird phrases, that have become commonplace in this extremely uncommon time.

Antibodies: Proteins created and released by the body’s immune system to fight a disease.

Antibody test: Tests to detect proteins that signal the person has been exposed to a particular virus, which can sometimes mean the person is immune to the disease caused by that virus.

Asymptomatic: A person showing no COVID-19 symptoms.

Asymptomatic Carrier: A COVID-19-infected person who shows no signs or symptoms of infection.

Community spread: A confusing term used when a community has reported COVID-19 cases but the source of infection is unknown.

Contact tracing: An attempt to identify situations in which an infected person is transmitting COVID-19, and then warn others who may have been exposed through that person.

Coronavirus: A group of viruses that appear under the microscope to have a crown of protein spikes. There are hundreds of coronaviruses.

COVID-19: A specific form of coronavirus caused by SARS-CoV-2 which emerged in China in December 2019.

Epidemic: A sudden increase in the number of people catching a disease affecting a community such as a town or city.

Herd immunity: This occurs when enough people are immune to an infectious disease so that the disease can no longer spread easily from person to person within the community.

Immunity: The ability to resist a particular infection by specific antibodies.

Immunocompromised: This refers to someone with an impaired immune system. Individuals with underlying diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, or the very young or very old, would be considered immunocompromised.

Pandemic: An infectious disease epidemic that spreads over several countries and continents, infecting large numbers of people.

SARS: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

SARS-CoV-2: The formal name of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. CoV means coronavirus and the 2 means the second coronavirus to cause SARS.

Shelter in Place: The act of seeking safety within the building one already occupies, rather than evacuating the area or seeking a community emergency shelter.

Super spreader: A person who can infect an unusually large number of people.

Viral test: A diagnostic test to determine if you currently infected with COVID-19.

We hope this short primer has helped you get a better handle on the COVID-19 lingo. We hope you will add to the list.

Of course, if you are struggling with complex science, whose vocabulary has got your customers confused, we can help. We enjoy helping our life science partners translate complicated science into language that will resonate with physicians, patients and investors.

Topics: Covid Terms, COVID19, Vocabulary

John Kouten, CEO

Written by John Kouten, CEO