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With the ever-growing concerns about the novel coronavirus, Covid-19 there are a lot of terms, phrasing and instructions circulating popular culture. These can all be just a bit overwhelming and certainly confusing.

Below is a glossary list of what you might be hearing and reading in the news and what they all mean.


Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause a range of illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.

These viruses typically affect the respiratory system and symptoms often include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.


COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus.

According to the World Health Organization, the “CO” stands for corona, “VI” for virus, “D” for disease, and 19, which indicates the year the new illness appeared.


An epidemic is a large outbreak of a disease in a short period of time. Epidemics often happen when a new disease emerges or if something happens to make people less immune to a disease.

The World Health Organization said the number of cases in an epidemic can vary according to the types of disease and population that is exposed.


A pandemic is typically declared when an epidemic has spread to multiple continents or countries. It has sometimes been called a “global epidemic.”

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic.

Flattening the curve

When health officials say they’re focusing on “flattening the curve,” it means they’re putting in place interventions and restrictions to slow the spread of a virus so there isn’t a large spike of cases in a short period of time. The intention is to keep the number of infections manageable so that health-care systems aren’t overwhelmed.


In Canada, PHAC is an abbreviation of the Public Health Agency of Canada. It’s a federal government agency responsible for public health, emergency preparedness and response, and infectious disease control and prevention.

In the United States, the equivalent is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) is the leading health agency of the United Nations that is providing leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Quarantine is a restriction of movement that is typically placed on people who were likely exposed to a contagious disease, such as COVID-19.

Individuals, families, and entire communities can be put into quarantine. They can be mandatory or voluntary, depending on the situation.


Individuals can voluntarily put themselves in “self-isolation,” typically at home, if they suspect they have been exposed to a virus, but they’re not showing any symptoms. They’re advised to not have any contact with others during the period of isolation.

For example, if they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for a disease, they may go into a self-isolation for a period of time to avoid further spread. The typical amount of time at this current moment is fourteen (14) days.

Social distancing

Health officials have been recommending “social distancing” as a means of limiting transmission of COVID-19. The term essentially means people should stay away from public spaces with large gatherings of people.

It also means individuals should maintain a certain amount of distance from each other. In the case of COVID-19, public health officials advising keeping a one-metre distance from others.

Travel advisory

As cases of COVID-19 continue to grow, governments around the world have put in place travel advisories to alert their citizens of countries or regions where it may be unsafe to visit.

The Canadian government has updated its list of travel advisories to include a number of areas where travellers may have a higher chance of contracting COVID-19.

Anyone returning from any travel outside of Canada is required by the government to self-isolate for fourteen (14) days.

Community transmission

Community transmission occurs when a virus starts appearing in people who haven’t had any known contact with an infected individual or travelled to an area where it is present.

Recommendations on how you can keep you and your family safe can be found on our website or on the Public Health Ontario website at

There are detailed instructions on how to Self Isolate, proper hand washing, using hand rub (sanitizer), online screening tools and who should be notified if you are feeling unwell.

Above all, please take care of yourselves! If you feel unwell, stay home and contact your local health department, access the online screening tool or call Telehealth. All this information can be found in our Covid-19 Update section on our website.

Don't forget to wash your hands often and take care of each other during these challenging times.

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