Coronavirus (COVID-19) Glossary

As of 1/31/24. All information contained is provided with input from physicians on the NGF Medical Advisory Board.


There is a large amount of information in the news about COVID-19. It even seems to change daily. Trying to follow and understand it all can be overwhelming. Add unfamiliar vocabulary, and it is easy for anyone to feel confused. Below are some common Coronavirus terms and definitions to help you easily access the information.


Tiny particles that can linger in the air for hours

Airborne transmission

When an infection spreads through the air, by people inhaling infectious aerosols or respiratory droplets


New loss of taste and/or smell


Not feeling sick; not having symptoms

Bivalent vaccine

A vaccine that targets two different strains of a virus or pathogen


Additional shot (with the same vaccine formula) given after the primary series to boost existing immunity

Breakthrough infection

An infection that occurs in someone who is fully vaccinated

Community spread

Getting the virus while going about regular activities in the community


Health condition not caused by the virus


The disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus


Widespread illness in one area

Incubation period

The time between being infected and feeling sick

Monovalent vaccine

A vaccine that targets one strain of a virus or pathogen

Novel strain

A new type of virus


Many people sick with one illness in one area


Many people sick with one illness around the world



Primary series

The initial number of doses of a particular vaccine


An infection that occurs in someone who previously had COVID-19 one or more times

Respiratory droplets

Tiny drops of saliva and mucous from your nose, mouth, and lungs that spread when you cough, sneeze, or speak


The virus that causes COVID-19 illness

Serial testing

Taking two or more tests over several days


Virus passing from one person to another

Updated shot

A vaccine with a slightly different formula to provide protection against more recent variants

Wastewater testing

Testing for SARS-CoV-2 in sewage to evaluate levels of COVID-19 in the community

What’s the Difference?

These often-used terms have different meanings and are not interchangeable. Knowing the difference helps understand the information you read and hear … and helps to keep you safe.


Booster: A booster shot has the same formula as the vaccines in the primary series. Immunity from some vaccines, such as the COVID-19 vaccines, wanes over time. The booster is given to increase existing immunity.

Updated shot: These shots have a different formula than the primary series. As viruses evolve over time, the formula is updated to better protect against more recent variants. An updated shot helps the body develop new immunity to the targeted variants.

Social distancing

Self-isolation: Separating yourself from others because you are sick

Self-quarantine: Separating yourself from others because you may have been exposed to a sick person

Shelter in place: Staying home, regardless of whether you are sick or have been exposed, and only leaving for essential needs like medicine or food. This reduces your exposure to others and to the possibility of becoming infected.


Respirator (N95 or higher): A disposable protective face mask designed to cover the nose and mouth that filters tiny particles, including bacteria or viruses. These masks provide the highest level of protection against aerosols and respiratory droplets.

Surgical mask: A disposable face mask that prevents saliva or mucous from leaving or entering the nose and mouth. These masks protect against respiratory droplets but not aerosol spread.

DIY face mask: A homemade reusable face mask covering the nose and mouth used to contain respiratory droplets. These masks protect against respiratory droplets but not aerosol spread.

Face shield: A clear device that protects the entire face from splashes and sprays. A face shield alone does not protect against COVID-19, but one may be worn in conjunction with a mask.

Additional Coronavirus Resources for Gaucher Patients



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