The origin and definition of 10 COVID-19-related terms

One by-product of the COVID-19 pandemic is the introduction of a vocabulary pertaining to the disease.

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Here are 10 terms everyone should know to help them and others in their families and communities understand the disease and avoid contracting it.

Asymptomatic. This term simply means “presenting no symptoms of disease,” but the connotation is that the asymptomatic person or animal has a disease but shows no signs of it. The insidious possible result is that such a person, unaware that contagion is a risk, may spread the disease to others, who are also unsuspecting. The term is the antonym of symptomatic, the adjectival form of symptom, which is from the Greek term for “attribute” and means “evidence” or “indication.”

Coronavirus. This word refers to a large family of viruses that includes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), the first identified strain of which caused a two-year outbreak that began in 2002. In 2019, a new strain, SARS-CoV-2, resulted in a disease identified as COVID-19. This acronym is taken from the first two letters of each word combined to form the compound word coronavirus and the first letter of disease, followed by the last two digits of the year in which the virus strain that causes the disease was identified. The term “novel coronavirus” refers to the fact that the virus is novel, or new.

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