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Coronavirus: Defining common terms used to explain the illness


News surrounding the spread of a new strain of coronavirus has caused stirs around the world, with several questions arising about the risks of and solutions to the illness.

On Wednesday, the number of cases reported in China jumped to round 6,000, surpassing the 5,327 people diagnosed with SARS in that country between 2002 and 2003.

The virus has killed 132 people.

Amid the outbreak, the Canadian government issued a travel advisory, urging people to avoid all “non-essential” travel to China.

Here’s a look at some common terms seen in news on the illness, and what exactly they mean.

Coronavirus: There is no one coronavirus. It’s actually an umbrella term for a family of different viruses, which, for example, also include SARS. The common cold is also part of this group.

Novel: A “novel” coronavirus, which is abbreviated as nCoV, is a new strain of the family of illnesses that has not been previously identified in humans.

Outbreak: According to the World Health Organization, an outbreak is defined as a situation where the “occurrence of disease cases in excess of normal expectancy.”

Outbreaks can be caused by a variety of factors, including infections, human-to-human contact or animal-to-human contact.

Pandemic: A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. WHO notes that viruses that have caused pandemics usually originated from animal influenza viruses.

Epidemic: Unlike a pandemic, an epidemic is specific to one region — such as a city or country.

Presumptive positive case: A “presumptive positive” case is a case where a patient shows the symptoms and signs of an illness, but still needs specific tests before the case is confirmed.

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