We’re living in strange times now, times we have never known before. Distancing ourselves from our loved ones is very hard, being unable to work, or go shopping. However, it won’t be forever, and we may appreciate our freedom all the more when this is over. Being a word nerd, I’ve noticed the new words and phrases that have cropped up in news stories. Some have caused some confusion so I’ve explained them below:

Although our present dilemma seems to be called both Novel Coronavirus and Covid-19, their meanings are not identical. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections, from the common cold to more serious diseases. COVID-19 is the disease caused by a new (novel) coronavirus.

The word corona means ‘crown’ in Latin. There is absolutely no connection between the disease and the Mexican beer called Corona, despite beer sales have been affected by the name.

We’re also hearing the words epidemic and pandemic. An epidemic is an event in which a disease is actively spreading. In contrast, the term pandemic relates to geographic spread and is used to describe a disease that affects a whole country or the entire world.

Quarantine is a word you would know if you have ever had to move countries with a dog or cat. Now it’s a word we’re all very familiar with, as well as social distancing. Another phrase that probably didn’t exist until recently is self-isolating.

Flattening the curve means preventing a sharp peak of cases, and spreading out the infection over a longer period of time so that the healthcare system will not be overwhelmed.

Is a respirator the same thing as a ventilator? They’re both connected with breathing but they’re not the same. A respirator is a mask-like device worn over the nose and mouth to prevent the inhalation of noxious substances. Health professionals wear respirators to filter out virus particles as they breathe in so they don’t get infected with COVID-19 while helping people and patients.

A ventilator is a machine that helps a patient breathe. This machine pumps oxygen into the lungs and removes carbon dioxide through a tube. The insertion of this tube into a person’s windpipe (or trachea) is called intubation.

Contact tracing is finding out all the people who have come into direct contact with a person infected with a disease. Quarantining such people (known as contacts) and isolating them, if they become infected, helps slow the spread of the disease.

As I’ve said before, we’re all in this together. Puzzling is one safe activity you can indulge in on your own if necessary.

Stay safe!