Tuesday April 7, 2020

Know About All the Coronavirus Terminologies

Say What? Here Are the Coronavirus Terms You Need to Know

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus. Pixabay

By Carol Pearson

Confused about all the terminology surrounding the coronavirus? These terms and definitions can help. This is a health article.

Coronavirus: Starting with the most obvious, this word refers to a family of hundreds of similarly shaped viruses. Under a microscope, they look like round blobs surrounded by spikes, much like the corona, or crown, surrounding the sun. There are seven coronaviruses that can affect people. The common cold is one, as are its more virulent cousins: SARS, severe acute respiratory virus, and MERS, Middle East respiratory virus.

COVID-19: This is the disease caused by the coronavirus. The first four letters are taken from the word coronavirus  and then the “d” from disease. The number 19 indicates it started in 2019. The disease is officially named SARS-CoV-2, because it is a respiratory virus, but you will hear people use all of these terms interchangeably.

Cluster: Epidemiologists refer to a group of cases of the same disease or condition in a particular area as a cluster. For example, there may be a cluster of birth defects in places that contain large amounts of toxic chemicals. Where there are clusters of conditions, scientists can investigate and find out the cause. As the numbers of people with a particular disease increase, it could then become an outbreak.

Health Quarantine officer checks people with a thermal scanner after Indonesia confirmed its first cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Soekarno Hatta International Airport, in Tangerang near Jakarta, Indonesia. VOA

Community transmission versus person-to-person spread: Dr. Anthony Fauci with the U.S. National Institutes of Health explains that “community transmission” means the disease is spreading to someone who has not had close contact with an infected person and had not visited a place where the virus is known to be spreading. It’s a mystery until scientists figure out how the disease spreads. Person-to-person spread is just what it sound like – the disease is spread to whose who are in close contact with one another, such as family members.

Epidemic, pandemic and outbreak: An outbreak is a sudden surge in the number of people coming down with a particular disease. An epidemic is a very large outbreak that has spread to other regions, countries or continents. A lot of doctors using these terms almost interchangeably. If a disease is called a pandemic, it can’t be controlled, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a lot of people are dying. The last pandemic was in 2009 when a new influenza virus, called H1N1, started in the U.S. and circulated the globe. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 151,000 and 600,000 people died.

An outbreak is a sudden surge in the number of people coming down with a particular disease such as coronavirus or ebola. Pixabay

Fatality rate: The number of people who die from a disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) says the fatality rate from COVID-19 is around 3.4% and that people over 60 and those with other health problems are far more at risk than those who are younger. Eighty percent of people who get the coronavirus don’t need hospitalization and can recover at home with no problem. SARS had a fatality rate of 9.6%, for MERS, it was 34.4%.

Asymptomatic and symptomatic: When someone is asymptomatic, they don’t show any signs of being sick, but they have the virus and can spread it to others. When someone is symptomatic, that person has visible signs of being sick. With COVID-19, that means a cough, fever and difficulty breathing. The intensity of these symptoms vary from person to person, but health experts say the most common way the new coronavirus spreads is between someone who has the disease and is showing the symptoms and another person.

Isolation versus quarantine: Isolation means a person, sick or not, stays away from other people. Older adults may want to self-isolate at home for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak. This means they would not go outdoors except when necessary or go to group events. Hospitals may have isolation units to keep infected people away from those who don’t have the virus. Isolation is intended to keep the virus contained or keep a healthy person well.

With a quarantine, people who may have been exposed to a virus are prevented from leaving a particular area. China quarantined entire cities as the coronavirus spread. Other countries quarantined their citizens who returned from China. Americans evacuated from Wuhan and cruise ships were housed on military bases while doctors evaluated them for signs of the coronavirus.

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Therapeutics:  Treatments used to help people get over a disease or to prevent them from getting one. There are now treatments for Ebola and HIV. Therapeutics could include drugs and medical devices, or other types of treatments. There are no therapeutics for COVID-19 so doctors treat the symptoms. For example, they provide drugs to reduce a fever or put a patient who is having trouble breathing on oxygen.

Anti-viral medicine: Any medicine that fights a virus. Biotech company Gilead Sciences is testing the antiviral drug remdesivir in China as a possible treatment for the new coronavirus. Remdesivir was developed to treat Ebola. (VOA)

Next Story

The Effects of Social Distancing and Isolation

How Social Distancing Can Impact Your Mental Health

social distancing
Mental health of many people, especially extroverts has been affected due to social distancing. Pixabay

By Dora Mekouar

Social distancing and isolation can be hard, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently pointed out during a daily briefing on the status of COVID-19 in his state.

“Don’t underestimate the personal trauma, and don’t underestimate the pain of isolation. It is real,” Cuomo said. “This is not the human condition — not to be comforted, not to be close, to be afraid and you can’t hug someone. … This is all unnatural and disorienting.”  

social distancing
Playground equipment is wrapped in crime scene tape to prevent its use as part of the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. VOA

Experts already know that years of loneliness or feelings of isolation can lead to anxiety, depression and dementia in adults. A weakened immune system response, higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and a shorter life span can also result.

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Children who have fewer friends or are bullied or isolated at school tend to have higher rates of anxiety, depression and some developmental delays.

But when it comes to a global pandemic like COVID-19, there is no documentation to which medical experts can refer.

social distancing
A man walks past a sign advistng social distancing at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco. VOA

“The studies that we have are more about forced isolation and no support,” said Elena Mikalsen, chief of the Psychology Section at Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. “The situation we’re in now, there’s a lot of social support … and social support is one of the big predictors of good health and mental health outcomes.” 

She adds that it is helpful that the entire world is basically in the same situation, a commonality that is leading to the rapid development of coping strategies from multiple sources, including friends, schools and businesses.

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During this period, Mikalsen is advising her patients to stay connected with people,  exercise regularly, and keep to a schedule so that everybody in the household has some sort of purpose in their day. Waiting around and worrying about getting sick can lead to increased anxiety.

A key factor driving people’s decisions on whether to isolate could come down to personality.

social distancing
A Pittsburgh Public Works employee removes a basketball rim from a court on the Northside of Pittsburgh, Monday, March 30, 2020. The rims were removed because people were not following social distancing rules while using the courts over the weekend. VOA

“Extroverts have this strong need to always be around other people. … The idea of being in a quiet place with no entertainment is extremely anxiety provoking,”  Mikalsen said. 

“Versus, you know, an introvert is perfectly happy in a tiny little room with nothing. You can lock up an introvert in a New York City apartment and have them not come out for two months and they’ll be perfectly happy.”

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Meanwhile, Cuomo told reporters that he is focusing on the positives in the current situation, like having his grown daughter, Cara, 25, working with him during the crisis.

“They’ll come for the holidays. They’ll come when I give them heavy guilt,” he said of his three grown daughters. “But I’m now going to be with Cara, literally, for a few months. What a beautiful gift that is, right? I would have never had that chance, and that is precious. … This crazy situation, as crazy as it is, gave me this beautiful gift.”  (VOA)