So it’s gone all around the world, already disrupting the lives of a few billion people. The 2019 Wuhan Coronavirus has affected our lives everywhere and so I thought it’d be good to present some key vocabulary for you to be able to follow the media discussion.
First up, what to call this virus?
In Australia we’re hearing the term COVID-19 a lot more in our news media.
COVID-19 is the official name for the disease which came out of Wuhan, China towards the end of 2019.
COVID-19 is an acronym – COronaVIrus Disease-2019.
A type of virus that infects humans, which leads to respiratory problems, and other symptoms such as coughing and
The name comes from the Latin corona.
Cool fact: coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1930s in chickens.
You can read more here – wiki.
Other names you’ll see include:
China Coronavirus – variations on this name were reported in the global media during January 2020.
* This last term particularly is used by some people to keep media attention on China, and as a result, it is political in nature. It came about when the Chinese Communist Party accused the American military of spreading the virus. As a result, the American President Donald Trump called it ‘the Chinese Virus.’ In Australia this term is not used.
If something is contagious, it can be passed on from one person to another.
Eg The corona virus is highly contagious, so we must take care.
Contagious can also be used in a positive way to describe something good about someone:
Eg Her enthusiasm is contagious
This is when an illness has a large number of cases at the same time.
First wave, second wave
Even if we have kept the virus under control in Australia, experts are afraid that a second wave will happen over winter, where numbers increase again.
Herd immunity (n.)
This is the idea that people are free to move about, and as a large percentage of the population develop the virus, they will also develop immunity to it.
If something is infectious, it can be passed from one person to another.
Like the word contagious, it can also have a positive spin:
She has an infectious smile
Though note that you can have an infection but that doesn’t mean it’s contagious
For example, you might have an ear infection, but it is probably not contagious.
At the moment we are in lockdown – shops are closed, as are fitness centres, schools, pretty much most non-essential businesses. Lockdown therefore refers to all the restrictions we have in place in order to stop the movement of people and the virus.
The next step will be coming out of lockdown and easing restrictions.
Mutate (v.), mutation (n.)
A virus can mutate, which means that it changes in some way and develops a new form because of a change in its genetic structure.
The word novel means “new”, and a newly identified coronavirus strain is often called a novel coronavirus.
Eg There are now more than 3,000 cases of the novel coronavirus in the US, according to government agencies.
An outbreak is when something starts to happen. Often it refers to something negative such as a disease or violence.
This is when a disease affects people all over a very large area or indeed the world, as we are experiencing now with COVID-19.
This refers to your lungs or how you breathe.
Eg I’m having respiratory problems
Quarantine (n, v), Self-isolate (v), self-isolation
To be in quarantine means that you keep yourself away from others, such as by staying at home.
Self-isolation is required when you might have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. The Australian Government has required that travellers coming back to Australia self-isolate for two weeks, as it can be up to two weeks for symptoms of the virus to appear – yikes!
From what I’ve read, self-isolation implies that you are a little more at risk, though essentially they both have the same idea that you’re by yourself at home or at a hotel.
Social distancing (n.), social distance (v.)
“Come to our store, where we practise social distancing to keep you safe.” Wow, when I hear this on the radio it feels like we’re living in a science fiction film!
In Australia and I believe most parts of the world, we’re told or encouraged to social distance, which means that we should be 1.5 metres apart from other people who we do not live with.
You see this word a bit in the media too, referring to a new variant or subtype of a virus.
A symptom is like a signal or a sign that something deeper is going wrong. For example, if you have fever and a dry cough, these could be symptoms of Covid-19 or the flu, for example.
The word is used by doctors but also to talk about any kind of big problem:
Eg The loss of jobs are symptoms of deeper problems in the economy.
The difficult part of this pandemic is that some people are spreading the virus but had no symptoms!
It’s a microorganism which is generally smaller than bacteria and which needs a host (such as us humans) in order to survive and grow. A virus invades living cells and tries to replicate.
SOURCES & FURTHER READING
I was inspired by ABC News Au, which featured many of these words.
The Australian Government has updates here on the virus.