All the Coronavirus Terminology You Need to Know
A simple glossary of complicated and previously obscure words related to the pandemic
The global pandemic of 2020 has spawned an outbreak of complex and unfamiliar words, including two that are brand new: SARS-CoV-2, the shorthand name given to a new coronavirus that hopped from animals to humans in December 2019; and Covid-19, the human disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. Some other words and terms could use a little defining to improve understanding of the virus, the disease, and the scientific analysis and mainstream reporting of it. Here’s a handy glossary.
Small, fine, and light particles that can be emitted by coughing, sneezing, and even talking that can stay suspended in the air for several minutes or longer (unlike heavier droplets, which fall more quickly). “Have you ever used hairspray or aerosolized cooking oil? Many of those droplets remain airborne nearby as you inhale particles and smell hairspray and cooking oil for several minutes,” writes Lisa Brosseau, ScD, an expert on respiratory protection and infectious diseases and retired professor from the University of Illinois at Chicago. “The same thing happens when someone coughs or sneezes.” Brosseau and other scientists say the coronavirus is almost surely spreading and infecting people via aerosols. “There are many of us in my field that are convinced that the science says airborne transmission is happening” with Covid-19, says Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure-assessment science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Other experts are not convinced that the virus remains viable in aerosols, however.
Drugs that fight bacterial infections. They do not work on viruses.
Proteins generated by the immune system in response to a threat. Reacting to viruses, antibodies are released into the bloodstream and act as catcher’s mitts, says virologist Andrea Amalfitano, DO, dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University. Antibodies can be generated by an infection or a vaccine and tend to be uniquely suited to battling a particular virus or other microbial invader, and how robust they are…