Open Accessibility Menu


Glossary of Terms

Information surrounding the novel coronavirus can be confusing.

“We’re all being inundated with information that sometimes is difficult to understand when it comes to COVID-19,” said Deb Sutton, Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County spokeswoman. “Few of us are pathologists, virologists or epidemiologists. Some of the scientific and medical terms used when talking about the pandemic can be a bit mystifying.”

To help you wade through the jargon, Sweetwater Memorial has compiled a glossary of terms to help you understand more about information being presented:

Novel coronavirus: It is a new coronavirus that had not been previously identified. It was identified in 2019.

SARS-CoV-2: This is the scientific name of the new strain of coronavirus. In people, the disease caused by the virus is called Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19.

COVID-19: The novel coronavirus causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19 disease. It is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulates causing mild illness, such as the common cold, said MHSC Pathologist Dr. Cielette Karn.

Delta variant: The B.1.617.2 (delta) is a variant of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19): CDC.

To detect the delta variant, a specific type of COVID-19 test is required — genomic sequencing. Genomic sequencing decodes the coronavirus' complete set of genes and searches for new mutations. It also matches known variants. Labs at some state and local health departments have access to genomic sequencing.

Multiplex Assay: CDC is encouraging public health laboratories to adopt the CDC Influenza SARS-CoV-2 (Flu SC2) Multiplex Assay to enable continued surveillance for both influenza and SARS-CoV-2, which will save both time and resources.

PCR: Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is a diagnostic test that determines if you are infected by analyzing a sample to see if it contains genetic material from the virus: CDC.

News Medial Life Sciences: The CDC's 2019-nCoV RT-PCR test was developed to look for the presence of a nucleic acid found only in the covid virus, said Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious disease programs at the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

"It is not remotely accurate that the CDC test doesn't differentiate between flu and SARS-CoV-2. It doesn't detect influenza. It only detects SARS-CoV-2," said Wroblewski. "If flu and covid are both circulating, you would be able to detect only SARS-CoV-2 and not flu."

Asymptomatic: A person is infected with the virus without having any symptoms.

Contact tracing: Once a test is returned positive for COVID-19, the person is notified of the result. Sweetwater County Public Health then begins contact tracing with a series of questions covering information such as symptoms, date symptoms began or ended, household members, employment, and those the patient has been in contact with, said Kim Lionberger, Sweetwater County Public Health Director. The patient is asked to list all of the people they have been in contact with during a certain time period. Public Health then contacts the people on that list.

Isolation: A person with a lab-confirmed positive test can be released from isolation if 10 days have passed since the onset of their symptoms and resolution of fever for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medications, and with improvement of other symptoms, Lionberger said.

Quarantine: It is a way to keep someone who may have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others, Lionberger said. Anyone who remains a close contact and is asymptomatic, is quarantined by Public Health for two weeks. They do not necessarily have to be tested, but it is recommended that they get tested on days 5 and 12 following the exposure. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow Public Health directions. If they develop symptoms, they are considered a probable case and must go into isolation instead of quarantine, which ends the same as a lab-confirmed positive.

Close Contact: The CDC updated its guidance in mid-October to define “close contact” a as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected individual for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Health departments rely on this guidance to conduct contact tracing.

Probable: Through contact tracing, probable cases are identified. A “probable” case is defined as a close contact of a confirmed positive who is symptomatic, but who has not been tested. Anyone who is tested, is asked to stay home until test results come in.

COVID-19 death: Whether Wyoming resident deaths are added to the state's coronavirus-related death total is based on official death certification information, according to state health officials. Death certificates reflect whether COVID-19 caused or contributed to the person’s death according to medical opinion. If the disease neither caused nor contributed to the person's death, then that person’s death is not reflected in Wyoming’s count of COVID-related deaths, even if the person is known to be positive for the virus.

Underlying medical conditions: Individuals at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 most often include people with heart or lung conditions, obesity, diabetes, and immunodeficiencies, according to the CDC.

Positive traveler cases: Positive COVID-19 cases by people traveling through Sweetwater County are not included in Sweetwater County numbers. They are included in the traveler's home county of residence. They are not included in state of Wyoming numbers unless their home county is in Wyoming. As of August 6, Sweetwater County has had eight positive traveler cases. For current local COVID-19 case numbers, click here.

Antibody: It is a protein found in the blood, produced in response to foreign substances such as viruses or bacteria. The Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is the most common type of antibody found. It helps protect the body from infection, said MHSC Laboratory Director Mary Fischer..

Antigen: These are molecular structures on the surface of viruses, according to the CDC. The immune system recognizes them. Antigens are capable of triggering an immune response, or antibody production.

Efficacy: The rate at which a test is effective.

Community spread: Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs, according to the CDC website. Community spread is when you can say the spread is from persons to persons who live in Sweetwater County. It's being passed around; not brought in from "the outside."

Social distancing: COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period. Social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” means keeping a safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your household, according to the CDC website. To practice social or physical distancing, stay at least 6 feet (about two arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Face coverings: There are many types of face coverings available, from N95s to homemade masks. Some are more effective than others at keeping you safe. While a cloth face covering – from those with ear loops to bandanas – may not protect the person wearing it, decreases the spread of the virus to others. The risk of infection is lowered when everyone wears a face mask when going into public places, Karn said. Your cloth face covering protects them. Their cloth face covering protects you.

COVID-19 tests used at Sweetwater Memorial

Curative SARS-CoV-2 by Korva Labs: This test detects the virus through oral fluid specimens. The test is 89.7% accurate, according to Curative. That means if 10 patients have coronavirus, the Curative test would accurately diagnose 9 of those patients as COVID-19 positive. This makes the Curative test as accurate if not more accurate than the nasopharyngeal test, according to Curative. The test is NOT authorized for unobserved at-home sample collection.

Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2/Flu/RSV by Cepheid: During this respiratory season, this test will be performed at MHSC instead of the current single target SARS-CoV-2 test. It is possible for an individual to be infected with one or more viruses at the same time.

Xpress SARS-CoV-2 by Cepheid: This test uses PCR technology via nasopharyngeal swab in viral transport media. The hospital uses it for obstetrics patients, inpatients and pre-operative patients only. It is highly accurate with 99% sensitivity.

ID NOW SARS-CoV-2 by Abbott Diagnostics: This test detects the virus at a molecular level and only requires a nasal swab. Because the accuracy of this test is not as reliable as other PCR methods (only about 80% sensitivity), the hospital uses this test only on symptomatic patients in the Emergency Department, the Family Medicine Clinic of Sweetwater Memorial, and Sweetwater Walk-In Clinic.

BioFire Respiratory Pathogens with SARS-CoV-2 by PCR: The analyzer test is performed on a BioFire Diagnostic Machine via nasopharyngeal swab in viral transport media. The test includes 22 respiratory pathogen targets. MHSC recently added the SARS-CoV-2 test to the panel at no extra cost. Also highly accurate, this testing offers 98% to 100% sensitivity.

SARS-CoV-2 Serology (antibody): According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, these tests are designed to detect antibodies. “Because the antibodies are part of the body’s immune response to exposure and not the virus itself, such testing cannot be used for diagnosis of infection,” according to the FDA website. On its website – – the FDA offers results for antibody tests that have been evaluated and a list of antibody tests it recommends healthcare providers stop using. Each test has varying degrees of effectiveness.

If you would like to have a term added, please send an email to