English XP

Covid in English

COVID 19 In English

These are strange times indeed. The disruption the world has experienced in the past 2 years has been unprecedented. I was reading an article the other day and as I was perusing the now-familiar words such as R-rate and infection curves. The words still seem slightly strange to me even as an English speaker. It got me thinking. If I am struggling with these elements, how would my foreign readers from countries like India and the Philippines cope. With that in mind, I decided to publish the most common terms in the COVID 19 universe to provide you with some context. I hope you find it useful.

1) Pandemic

What is a pandemic?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a pandemic is a “an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the population”.

Usage: Coronavirus is officially a pandemic. Here’s why that matters. (nationalgeographic.com)

Not to be confused with an Epidemic: An epidemic is a disease that has spread to a large number of people.

The key here is the relatively localized nature of an epidemic compared to a pandemic.

In recent memory there have been two pandemics. COVID 19 and The Spanish Flu. Many centuries ago there was the black plague which is estimated to have killed 30 percent to 60 percent of the European population. It is the deadliest pandemic ever recorded.

2) Virus

What is a virus?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a virus is “any of a large group of submicroscopic infectious agents that are usually regarded as nonliving extremely complex molecules, that typically contain a protein coat surrounding an RNA or DNA core of genetic material but no semipermeable membrane, that are capable of growth and multiplication only in living cells, and that cause various important diseases in humans, animals, and plants”.

Usage: Nipah virus: could it cause the next pandemic? – Professor Ian Jones | The Scotsman

Not to be confused with Bacteria: A large group of living unicellular microorganisms which can cause disease

The key here is that while a virus is not a living organism, bacteria is.

There are many types of viruses, the most common are human immunodeficiency virus which causes AIDS and the SARS-CoV-2 Virus which causes COVID 19

3) Quarantine

What does Quarantine mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, quarantine is a “the period of time during which a person or animal that has a disease or that might have a disease is kept away from others to prevent the disease from spreading”.

Usage: Travel red list and hotel quarantine set to be scrapped completely | Metro News

Not to be confused with an Isolation: the fact that something is separate and not connected to other things.

The key here is that quarantine refers to the medical separation while isolation is separation in general.

In recent memory there quarantine rules have been in place in countries around the world to the consternation of world travelers. This has significantly reduced world travel

4) Vaccine

What is a vaccine?

According to the Cambridge dictionary , a vaccine is a “a substance that is put into the body of a person or animal to protect them from a disease by causing them to produce antibodies (=proteins that fight diseases)”.

Usage: “I just had my COVID 19 vaccine, it did not hurt at all.”

Not to be confused with an Inoculation:  Inoculation has a broader meaning than vaccination.

All vaccinations are inoculations but not all inoculations are vaccinations.

In recent memory there has been a lot of controversy about vaccines. I would not go into that here. Suffice to say, vaccines are used to manage viral diseases.

5) Chronic

What is does chronic mean?

According to the Merriam Webster, a chronic illness is a disease that persists for a long time or is constantly recurring.

Usage: Opinion | The special torment of mysterious chronic illness – The Washington Post

Not to be confused with an Acute: A disease that is short in duration

The key here is that a chronic disease is long in duration and is constantly recurring

An example of a chronic disease is Asthma and an acute disease is the common cold.

6) Testing

What is does testing mean?

According to the The Free Dictionary, a pandemic is a “A procedure for critical evaluation; a means of determining the presence, quality, or truth of something; “. In this case, determining if there is a disease or not.

Usage: Taoiseach wants culture of self-testing as antigen tests to be rolled out widely – BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

Not to be confused with Screening: Screening is the process of detecting potential disease indicators.

The key here that screening is done before one has symptoms while testing is to confirm that the apparent symptoms are as a consequence of the disease.

Testing is an essential part of disease control, however testing is not absolute, we could have false positives and false negatives.

7) Pathology

What does pathology mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, pathology is “the science of the causes and effects of diseases, especially the branch of medicine that deals with the laboratory examination of samples of body tissue for diagnostic or forensic purpose”.

Usage: “The pathology of COVID 19 is unlike any disease I have ever seen”

Not to be confused with an Epidemiology: the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health.

The key here is that pathology deals with the causes of disease while epidemiology deals with the intersection of pathogens and humans.

In recent memory pathology has taken center stage as it has been involved in identifying the causes and effects of COVID 19.

8) Immunity

What is does immunity mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, immunity is “the ability of an organism to resist a particular infection or toxin by the action of specific antibodies or sensitized white blood cells.

Usage: Covid vaccine: How long does immunity last? | Metro News

There are two types of immunity, Acquired and natural.

While the natural immunity is inherent in every human, acquired is obtained through vaccines.

Immunity is the essential to dealing with COVID 19.

9) Comorbid

What is a comorbid?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, comorbid means existing simultaneously with and usually independently of another medical condition

Usage: Comorbid children will need a doctor certificate for shot – The Economic Times (indiatimes.com)

Comorbidity is important in disease management because it determines the potential impact of the disease on the patient.

10) Social Distancing

What is social distancing?

According to the Wikipedia, social distancing is ” is a set of non-pharmaceutical interventions or measures intended to prevent the spread of a contagious disease by maintaining a physical distance between people and reducing the number of times people come into close contact with each other”

Usage: Honeybees use social distancing when mites threaten hives – study | Bees | The Guardian

Social distancing was definitely the word of the year in 2020. As is normal with all humans we developed other ways of greeting and communicating, like the elbow and fist shakes.

So there you go! I hope you learnt something from this article and you would not be fazed when you come across these terms in the news. If you enjoyed the post, I have got several others like it. From humorous posts like ‘Th’ Tongue Twisters to articles about English culture. If you are confused about how to begin your Journey to English Language fluency, check out my roadmap where I outline the steps to take to improve your English from zero to hero.

That’s your lot for today.

Till next time.