Glossary of key terms associated with COVID-19



Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the world, including sub-Saharan Africa. As with other health issues, when referring to COVID-19, specific terms are required. These terms have specific definitions. Rural broadcasters and their audiences need a common understanding of these words so that everyone can fully grasp how the virus works and how to protect themselves from it. Unless there are universal definitions of key terms, confusion and misinformation is very likely to occur.

The following is a list of 41 of the most common and important terms used by health professionals and others when talking about COVID-19.

1. Antibiotic: Medication that kills germs.

2. Asymptomatic: Symptom-free.

3. Balanced diet: Rich and varied food that provides all the necessary elements for the maintenance and proper functioning of the body.

4. Preventive measures: Measures to avoid contracting the disease, to avoid being contaminated, and to avoid spreading it.

5. Benign: Mild, innocuous, harmless, not serious.

6. Clinical testing: Research on new drugs.

7. Confirmed case: Person who tests positive for the disease.

8. Contact persons: People who may have been in close contact with the infected person.

9. Contact tracking: Identifying people who may have been in close contact with an infected person before that person became ill.

10. Containing an epidemic: Halting, blocking, controlling, or stopping an epidemic.

11. COVID-19 The name of the current coronavirus disease.

12. Discrete symptom: A sign that cannot be identified with certainty, a sign that does not manifest itself clearly.

13. Disinfect: Make healthy, sanitize. Clean, get rid of, or kill disease-carrying germs.

14. Disinformation: The communication of false information, information that is not consciously and deliberately verified.

15. Dyspnea: Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath.

16. Emergency plan: Developed in an unanticipated situation such as the one our country is experiencing with COVID-19. An emergency plan outlines the preventive measures needed to reduce the effects of the pandemic and the measures to be taken to restore the situation, to return to normal.

17. Epidemic: A disease that affects a large number of people at the same time in the same place.

18. Healthy eating: Food that does not cause harm (discomfort, damage, or cause other problems) to the proper functioning of the body.

19. Hydro-alcoholic solution: A liquid composed of water and alcohol.

20. Hygienic practices: Actions that contribute to the preservation of health.

21. Immune system: The body systems that defend itself against external disease microorganisms.

22. Immunity: Ability of the body to defend itself against disease(s).

23. Incubation period: Time between infection and the appearance of disease symptoms.

24. Infect: To contaminate, to transmit a disease.

25. Inhale: Introduce gaseous substances into the lungs by breathing.

26. Lockdown: In the case of COVID-19, lockdown means staying at home and not going outside to limit the spread of the disease. It is a measure taken by a public authority.

27. Management guidelines: Ministry of Health guidelines for the treatment of patients.

28. Nasal congestion: Congestion, accumulation of liquids in the nose. Feeling of nose being blocked.

29. Outbreak of disease: A sudden increase in the number of cases.

30. Pandemic: An epidemic that affects a large part of the population over a vast region of the world, or across severalcontinents.

31. Pathogen: The microorganism that causes disease.

32. Propagation: Expansion, generalization, dispersal, increase.

33. Quarantine: Place in isolation for a given period of time.

34. Self-confinement: The individual decides herself or himself to stay at home, not to go out and risk contaminating others or contracting the disease.

35. Social distancing: Distance taken between oneself and another person.

36. Spreading: Dispersing, expanding.

37. Stigmatize: Blame, condemn, criticize, rebuke, accuse.

38. Suspected: case A person who shows signs of the disease and should be tested.

39. Symptom: A sign that is characteristic of a disease.

40. Syndrome: The set of characteristic signs (manifestations) of a disease.

41. Test: Taking samples from a person to test for the disease.


Contributed by: Adama Zongo, consultant, radio trainer, playwright, and producer.
Reviewed by: Chief Medical Officer of the Leo Health District (Sissili Province) and Dr. Léandre Komi, Chief Medical Doctor of the Baskuy/Ouagadougou Health District, Burkina Faso

This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.