COVID-19 Glossary

General Terms

Coronavirus: A family of related viruses, many of which cause respiratory illness. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is officially called SARS-CoV-2.

COVID-19: The name of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

Immunity: A person's ability to resist or fight off an infection.

Incubation Period: The time taken for someone with an infection to start showing symptoms.

Pandemic: When a new disease spreads to many countries around the world.

Outbreak: A sudden increase of a specific illness in an area.

Symptomatic: When a person shows signs of illness. For COVID-19, this includes a cough, fever or loss of smell or taste

Asymptomatic: When a person doesn't show any symptoms of an illness. People without any symptoms may still have COVID-19 and be able to spread the coronavirus.

Test-Specific Terms

Testing: The process of checking a person for a disease or condition. This includes both sampling and analysis of the sample. There are two main COVID-19 tests:

  • A swab test – to test current infection.
  • An antibody test – to test for past infection.

Sample: Tissue or fluid from the body that aids in the process of medical diagnosis e.g. cells collected by swabbing, blood or urine.

Swab: A sterile instrument resembling a large cotton bud which can be used to obtain a sample.

Sampling: The process of obtaining a sample. For example, rubbing a swab against the tonsils and inside the nostril is the act of sampling or swabbing.

Analysis: The process of investigating a sample for a disease or condition. This is carried out in laboratories by biomedical scientists.

Testing Kits: Packages containing sampling equipment and guidance on how to obtain a sample and handle it correctly.


More information on COVID-19 testing can be found at Lab Tests Online