With help from the CDC, we answer some of Google’s most searched questions about the coronavirus crisis.
State and federal officials say there are simple, everyday steps you can take to avoid catching or spreading respiratory diseases, including COVID-19: Cover your coughs and sneezes, thoroughly wash or sanitize your hands and stay home if you are sick. Get more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at CDC.gov/coronavirus, or call 211, the Iowa Department of Public Heath’s hotline, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As the coronavirus pandemics sweeps through the country and the world, you’ve probably seen lots of terms suddenly in the daily lexicon.
Here’s your guide for understanding the public health terms and warnings around the novel virus:
The coronavirus — This common term used for the current virus actually describes a family of viruses that can affect humans and animals. That family of viruses is responsible for the common cold, as well as more severe diseases such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). More specifically, this virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2.”
The illness the virus causes is COVID-19, which stands for “coronavirus disease 2019.” COVID-19 is the name of the disease, not the virus.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — The federal center, known as the CDC, is part of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is funded by the federal government. It was first established in 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) with a primary mission of preventing malaria from spreading across the nation, according to a CDC history. It is based in Atlanta. The CDC works with federal, state and international organizations on monitoring and advising on the coronavirus.
Epidemic — An epidemic is the rapid spreading of a disease among a region or certain population.
Pandemic — A pandemic is an epidemic that has spread worldwide. The coronavirus was labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11.
Incubation period — An incubation period is the time between the infection and showing symptoms of illness. Most estimations give the coronavirus an incubation period of 2-14 days, with symptoms most commonly showing at about five days after infection, according to the World Health Organization.
Isolation — Isolation is the practice of sick people staying away from healthy people to prevent the spread of disease.
Quarantine — The CDC defines quarantine as separating and restricting “the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.”
Social distancing — The practice of staying away from large public gatherings, avoiding public transportation including buses, taxis and rideshares like Uber and Lyft, and keeping a distance of about six feet from other people. On March 17, Gov. Kim Reynolds declared a public health emergency that closed many business where people congregate, such as bars and theaters, and prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people. She expanded that order on Thursday to include more businesses.
Stay at home/shelter in place — A governmental order used to limit residents from leaving their homes, except out of necessity for tasks like buying groceries or seeking medical care. The orders often include closures of “non-essential” businesses and services. Unlike several states, Iowa has not issued a shelter-in-place order, although the state has closed many businesses and services deemed “non-essential.”
Community transmission — Community transmission, or community spread, is when public health professionals cannot specify an origin for an infection, such as tracing it to specific travel or contact with a specific individual. The CDC first confirmed a community transmission of COVID-19 in California on Feb. 26. Iowa has more than 25 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 spread across multiple counties. Public health officials are no longer trying to pinpoint the origin of Iowa’s cases and assume new cases will stem from community transmission. Their focus is now on mitigating the spread.
Flatten the curve — “Flattening the curve” is a phrase used to describe slowing the spread of the virus to stop it from overwhelming a healthcare system. Part of the illustration is assuming that X number of coronavirus or COVID-19 cases will happen in the life of this crisis; if they all happen at once, there won’t be enough doctors, medical staff or beds to treat those affected, including people who need other care and find no availability. If those cases are spread over a six-month (or longer) period, it doesn’t strain the healthcare infrastructure as much.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) — Items worn to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in a hospital setting as patients with confirmed or possible infection undergo evaluation. PPE items include face shields, face masks, isolation gowns, gloves and N95 respirators. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is currently a shortage of many PPE items due to increased demand.
N95 masks — N95 respirators, and surgical masks in general, are personal protective equipment that can protect the wearer from airborne particles and liquids from hitting the face. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend either mask for the general public and says it does not provide an added health benefit for the general public. Instead, the CDC recommends preventative actions, including hand washing and social distancing, as the best way to avoid being infected.
Presumptive positive — A presumptive positive test is for the time between an initial positive test for the virus by a public health lab but before the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed the results. A presumptive positive result from a CDC test is treated as if the patient is positive for the virus, according to the CDC.
World Health Organization — Best known by its initials — W.H.O. — this is a specialized health agency of the United Nations and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. It sets internationally accepted guidelines for treating diseases and coordinates responses to disease outbreaks globally, according to the Associated Press.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Nick Coltrain is a politics and data reporter for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or at 515-284-8361. Your subscription makes work like this possible. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal.
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