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April 2020

Glossary of Pandemic Terminology

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Hygiene Specialists, Coronavirus Insights

Here at Initial we take hygiene very seriously, in fact you could say we are the experts. And as the experts we do love to throw around hygiene jargon, both on our website and in our blogs. One of the first blog posts I wrote in 2017 was a glossary of frequently used hygiene terms, because we know that not everyone has quite such a vivid interest in this subject as we do, and that at times our jargon and terminology may be confusing.  

And if hygiene terminology is confusing, medical terminology is even more so. That’s why we decided to update this blog to include some of the more frequently used terms we are seeing thrown around in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and what they mean.

A-Z of Pandemic Terminology:

2019-nCoV

The initial name for SARS-CoV-2 virus at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak

ANTIBACTERIAL

A substance which can kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria.

ANTIVIRAL

A substance which can kill virus particles.

ANTIMICROBIAL

Any substance or product that inhibits the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, or protozoa. 

ASYMPTOMATIC TRANSMISSION

The ability to be infected with viable microorganisms, such as viruses, and show no symptoms of infection. Transmission can occur when the person is unaware they are infected.

BACTERIA

One celled organisms, various species of which are involved in fermentation, putrefaction, infectious diseases, or nitrogen fixation.

BACTERICIDE

A substance that kills bacteria.

BIOCIDE

A chemical substance that is intended to destroy organisms such as microorganisms.

CDC

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal government agency responsible for public health, emergency preparedness and response, and infectious disease control and prevention.

CONTACT TRACING

A monitoring process that involves identifying all of the people an infected person was recently in contact with.

CONTAMINATE

To make impure or unsuitable by contact or mixture with something unclean or bad, for example bacteria.

COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION

The spread of an infection through the community, not associated with the primary source.

CORONAVIRUS

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

COVID-19

The coronavirus disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

CROSS CONTAMINATION

Cross-contamination is when bacteria is spread between food, surfaces or equipment.

DISINFECTANT

A chemical that kills bacteria. (Also known as germicides, bactericides or biocides.)

E-COLI

A bacterium commonly found in the intestines of humans and other animals, some strains of which can cause severe food poisoning.

ENVELOPED VIRUS

A virus which has an external coating, or envelope.

EPIDEMIC

The spread of a disease through a region or a community, generally within a short space of time.

FEMININE HYGIENE WASTE

Used tampons and sanitary towels.

FEVER

An abnormally high body temperature, usually accompanied by shivering. A fever is typically associated with an infection.

FLATTEN THE CURVE

Slowing down the bell curve of infections, to a level that infrastructure can cope.

FUNGUS

Any of a diverse group of single-celled organisms that live by decomposing and absorbing the organic material in which they grow, comprising the mushrooms, molds, mildews, smuts, rusts, and yeasts.

GERM

A microorganism, especially one which causes disease.

HYGIENE

The science that deals with the promotion and preservation of health.

INCUBATION PERIOD

The length of time between when an infection begins and when there are apparent signs of disease.

INFECTIOUS

Likely to cause or spread infection.

INFLUENZA

A viral infection caused by the influenza virus, also called “flu”.

ISOLATION

Diagnosed with COVID-19 (or any other infectious disease) and placed away from non-infected people for treatment.

LOCKDOWN

A strategy in which a government confines its citizens to their homes for a given period, in order to try and “flatten the curve”.

MICRO-ORGANISMS

Any organism too small to be viewed by the naked eye, such as bacteria, protozoa, and some fungi and algae.

MERS

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is a viral respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus MERS-CoV.

MORBIDITY RATE

A measure of how many people have an illness relative to the population.

MORTALITY RATE

A measure of how many people have died of a disease in a population.

PANDEMIC

A pandemic is a worldwide spread of a new disease.

PATHOGEN

A bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease.

Ro:

The basic reproduction number (or ratio) (Ro) is used to measure the transmission potential of an infection/disease. So if the Ro of a disease is 10. It would be expected that each new case of disease would produce 10 secondary cases.

SANITIZE

To apply heat or chemicals  in order to destroy most pathogens.

SANITIZER

A product that reduces or eliminates pathogens in the air, on surfaces or on inanimate objects.

SARS

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which is caused by the SARS coronavirus, known as SARS CoV.

SARS-CoV

The virus that is associated with SARS disease.

SARS-CoV-2

The virus that is associated with COVID-19 disease.

SECONDARY INFECTION

A separate, unrelated infection caused by another disease, such as bacterial pneumonia during COVID-19 infection.

SELF-QUARANTINE

Confining yourself voluntarily, for example staying at home, away from others.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Ensuring that people within a population can remain at a distance from one another to limit virus spread, this has taken the form of banning large groups or congregations of people, as well as maintaining distance between individuals.

SODIUM HYPOCHLORITE

The chemical name for bleach.

VIRUS

A small infectious particle that replicates only inside living cells of an organism.

VIRUCIDAL

A chemical substance exerting an effect by using a biocide on organisms, specifically viruses.

WHO

World Health Organization is the leading health agency of the United Nations and is providing leadership during the COVID-19 outbreak.

ZOONOSIS

Infectious disease caused by a number of microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria, as well as parasites, that can spread from animals to humans.

ZOONOTIC DISEASE

Pertains to zoonosis: a disease which can be transmitted to animals to people.


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Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at www.initial.co.za. Life outside of Rentokil mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned eleven, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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