Coronavirus terms you need to know, explained

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Communities across the United States are trying to flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus, with officials both making suggestions and enacting various restrictions that should help decrease the risk of the virus spreading further.

But when it comes to the new coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19 by the professionals, there's a mandate here, an order there, and encouragement way over yonder. So what exactly does it all mean? Below, an explanation of common terms - in alphabetical order - and the significance of each.

Asymptomatic: For someone to be asymptomatic means they are not showing signs of illness. Asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 can make it particularly difficult to identify whether or not someone is infected, which creates a greater danger in that some spread could be possible, even in asymptomatic patients.

Community spread: Community spread is the spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown and travel has been ruled out. Someone who does not have relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient with COVID-19 would be an example of community spread.

Complications: Circumstances can affect situations to the point where difficulty is increased. Regarding COVID-19, complications can be severe, and include pneumonia, organ failure and death. The Centers for Disease Control reports fatality rates are highest for people aged 85 and older - anywhere from ten to 27 percent, as of March 16 - and minimal for lower age groups, including less than one percent for people aged 20 to 54 years old, and no reported fatalities in anyone 19 years of age or younger.

Coronavirus: Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, according to the World Health Organization. They are zoonotic, which means they are transmitted between people and animals, and are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface.

COVID-19: In this designation, "CO" stands for "corona," "VI" for "virus," and "D" for disease. The disease was formerly referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus,” or “2019-nCoV.” COVID-19 is also a new strain of coronavirus that was discovered in 2019, and had not been previously identified in humans.

Epidemic: When an infectious disease is widespread in a community at a particular time, it is considered an epidemic.

Epidemiology: This is the study of incidence and possibly control of various diseases, among other topics.

Flatten the curve: In the case of COVID-19, "flattening the curve" means to slow the rate of infection. In epidemiology, the curve refers to the projected number of new cases over a period of time. Check out this CNBC chart, based on CDC data, to see a visual representation.

Hunker down: This may sound entirely colloquial, but it's a real order, and it means you should stay home as much as possible. Anchorage's mayor announced the state of Alaska's first emergency 'hunker-down' order on March 20, stating that residents should only leave their homes if necessary, and that businesses outside of critical infrastructure would be subject to civil penalties.

Isolation: To be isolated can mean being far away from other people and places, but in this case, the primary meaning is having minimal contact with others, often to the point where individuals are alone. Isolating people who are infected with a contagious illness and keeping them away from those who are not infected reduces the risk of spread tremendously. The term can also sometimes have negative connotations, and thus hasn't been utilized extensively when discussing topics such as self-quarantine or social distancing.

Lockdown: As of Friday, three states had gone into "lockdown" mode due to the new coronavirus: Illinois, New York and California ordered all of its residents to stay inside their homes unless they have vital reasons to leave, specifically for groceries and medicine purchases. Considering the spectrum and severity of limitations and options, lockdowns are considered much more drastic than, for example, a "strong advisory."

Mandate: This is an official order to do something, often with consequences in the event one is ignored.

Order: An order is an authoritative command, direction or instruction, often with consequences in the event one is ignored.

Pandemic: When a disease is prevalent throughout the country or around the world, it is considered a pandemic. The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak as such on March 11, 2020.

Prevention: To prevent is to stop something from happening. The Centers for Disease Control says the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Beyond that, you should clean your hands often and avoid close contact. You can help protect others as well by staying home if you are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and cleaning or otherwise disinfecting surfaces around you.

Self-quarantine: A quarantine is a restriction on movement intended to prevent the spread of disease. Self-quarantine means to put yourself into isolation, or at least to limit your contact with others so that you might know whether or not you are ill and can prevent the unintentional spread of the new coronavirus to others. The State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has already enacted a 14-day self-quarantine policy for anyone arriving from out of state, and is encouraging people to stop all non-essential travel, business or otherwise, for the time being.

Shelter in place: This protocol is another type of official order in which authorities convey a specific set of restrictions. Alaska has not yet seen any "shelter-in-place" orders, but the specifics of such orders have varied across the U.S. In many cases, people are being asked to stay inside their own residences, with few exceptions. Notably, the intentions of a shelter-in-place order in this particular situation would be to maintain social distancing between residents.

Social distancing: Deliberately separating yourself from others by increasing the physical space between you is what's most often referred to as social distancing due to COVID-19. Officials recommend that people stay at least six feet away from others to lessen the chance of transmitting COVID-19 to others. Some other examples of social distancing include working from home instead of the office, closing schools, canceling events with large crowds, and shuttering spaces where people would otherwise be in close contact with one another.

Strong advisory: A strong advisory is the same as a serious recommendation. The Department of Health and Social Services on Friday issued strong advisory encouraging the freeze of all non-essential air travel in Alaska. The advisory is not a mandate, but instead a push for specific action to help mitigate risk.

Symptoms: These are the indicators that you may be ill. For COVID-19, the Department of Health and Social Services says the most common symptom is fever. Other signs and symptoms include cough and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, as well as tiredness, aches, runny nose and sore throat, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Travel-related: For COVID-19, a confirmed travel-related case is one in which the patient contracted the illness during travel. The risk of a travel-related illness increases with the length of the trip.

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