EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - It is difficult enough to try to understand how the pandemic COVID-19 is affecting our local community as well as the world around us on a human level, but it is even more challenging to grasp some of the meaning of our current situation when we encounter new vocabulary that accurately describes what's going on.  As first noted in an article from NBC News Miami, understanding what we are all talking about may help people get around the jargon and use information correctly.

Here are some words that are impacting our lives right now:

  • Coronavirus and COVID-19

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    The terms coronavirus and COVID-19 are often used interchangeably, but the two have different definitions. Coronaviruses are a “large family of viruses” that cause a range of illnesses, according to the World Health Organization. Different strains of coronaviruses lead to different illnesses, and the new strain of coronavirus – also referred to as the novel coronavirus – has led to the disease COVID-19. COVID-19 has infected thousands of people across the country and more than 100,000 across the world. It is possible to have a coronoavirus that is not COVID-19.

    Going into word origin, “corona” is the Latin word for wreath or crown, and “virus” is the Latin word describing an “infective agent.” 'Coronaviruses' are subsequently named for the "crown-like" spikes on their surface

  • Incubation Period

Incubation period refers to the time elapsed between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms. The incubation period for COVID-19 is two to 14 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Asymptomatic and Symptomatic

A person who is asymptomatic does not show signs of carrying a disease. A person who is symptomatic does show signs of having an illness. With COVID-19, those symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.  Several of the symptoms overlap with the regular flu virus that appears during this season.  COVID-19 is distinctive due to the element of "shortness of breath" which might require an infected person to receive breathing assistance.  About 80% of people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own by drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and taking pain and fever medications. However, some people may become seriously ill and can develop difficulty breathing, says the CDC.

  • ‘Presumptive positive’ case

“presumptive positive” case is one that has been confirmed by state health agencies, but has not been confirmed by the CDC.  This week, there were two presumptive positive cases in Middlesex County - one in Edison and one in East Brunswick.

  • Quarantine, Self-Quarantine, Isolation

The CDC defines isolation as separating those with a contagious disease from those who aren't sick. Quarantine, on the other hand, is the separation of people who may have been exposed to a contagious disease.

With coronavirus, the recommended period to self-quarantine is 14 days.

The CDC is asking anyone who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus – i.e., those who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, or someone who has traveled to China, South Korea, Iran, or Italy – to self-quarantine. A person who is not showing any symptoms may still self-quarantine to prevent potential spread of the disease.

Being quarantined or deciding to self-quarantine is a way of restricting the movement of someone who is at risk for passing on the illness.

Anyone in self-quarantine is advised to stay in their own room, apartment, or house. They should use a separate bathroom (if possible), avoid sharing towels, dishes and other items, and wear a face mask.

People in self quarantine should also refrain from engaging in activities outside their home, including work, school, and social gatherings. Public transportation and/or ride-sharing services should also be avoided.

Community Spread

According to the CDC, the definition of community spread is: “Spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown.” In other words, if there is uncertainty about how a person became infected with COVID-19, there is community spread.  In South Brunswick, schools were initially closed due to the possibility that two individuals who attended a party in Princeton may have become infected.