Coronavirus (COVID-19) Glossary

As of 1/11/2021. 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.


New loss of taste and/or smell


Not feeling sick; not having symptoms

Community spread

Getting the virus while going about regular activities in the community


Health condition not caused by the virus


Widespread illness in one area

Incubation period

The time between being infected and feeling sick

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



Respiratory droplets

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


Virus passing from one person to another

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.

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.


Face shield: a clear device that protects the entire face from splashes and sprays

Respirator (N95): a special, disposable protective face mask designed to cover the nose and mouth that filters tiny particles including bacteria or viruses.

Surgical mask: a disposable face mask that prevents saliva or mucous from leaving or entering the nose and mouth.

DIY face mask: a homemade reusable face mask covering the nose and mouth used to contain respiratory droplets.

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