COVID-19 Glossary

 A person is "asymptomatic" when they have a disease or condition like COVID-19, but they do not have any symptoms; a person is "symptomatic" if they have symptoms.

COVID-19 cases are currently identified using a specimen obtained using a nasopharyngeal or nasal swab, and analyzed using a PCR or Point of Care test. These methods look for the presence of actual virus in the nasal/nasopharyngeal cavity, not the presence of antibodies in the blood. Cowlitz County HHS does not receive results from antibody tests for Cowlitz residents. 
Close Contact
A "close contact" is someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset until the time the patient is isolated. If the infected person does not have symptoms, then the time frame starts 2 days prior to the person being tested.

Contact Tracers
Contact Tracers are Cowlitz County Health & Human Services employees that are trained to do telephone interview with exposed individuals (close contacts) to inform them a possible exposure has occurred. 

Epidemiological-Curve "epi-curve"
An epidemiological-curve "epi-curve" is a visual display of the onset of illness among cases associated with an outbreak. We learn a lot about outbreaks from an epi-curve, such as time trends (the distribution of cases over time), outliers (cases that stand apart from the overall pattern), and we can make inferences about the outbreak’s pattern of spread. The Cowlitz County epidemiologist uses the data to create an epi-curve a few times each week.

Watch the Cowlitz County epidemiologist explain an epi-curve in this video.  (Open the link, click on "8-12-2020 Work Session Zoom", then move forward to 40:50 in the video)

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
HIPAA require health care providers and organizations, as well as their business associates, to develop and follow procedures that ensure the confidentiality and security of protected health information (PHI) when it is transferred, received, handled, or shared. This applies to all forms of PHI, including paper, oral, and electronic, etc. Furthermore, only the minimum health information necessary to conduct business is to be used or shared.

Isolation is used to separate persons who have a communicable disease from those who are healthy. Individuals with symptoms who are lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and are not sick enough to be hospitalized are directed to care for themselves and isolate at home. If someone is not able to go home to self-isolate (they live with very vulnerable persons, they are homeless, etc.), then there could be a need to find a temporary location for shelter during recovery.   Isolation can and usual IS done at home. 

Notifiable Conditions
In Washington, health care providers, health care facilities, clinical laboratories, veterinarians, and others have responsibilities for reporting suspected or confirmed cases of certain conditions under public health surveillance. Included are specific acute and chronic communicable diseases, occupational asthma, birth defects, blood lead levels, and pesticide poisoning.
Most communicable notifiable conditions are reported to the local health jurisdiction.   For more information go to the Washington State Dept. of Health website, or for a complete list of notifiable conditions, see WAC 246-101.

Percent positivity rate
This indicator is the number of positive test results received, divided by the total number of tests performed, over a two-week period. It is based on the test date. Note that these data include multiple negative test results for one individual, other than those performed on the same day, while all positive test results after an individual’s first positive result are excluded. 
Protected Health Information (PHI)
PHI is any information about your health status, provision of health care, or payment for health care that is created or collected by CCHHS.   PHI is treated with the utmost confidentiality.  It is held in a secure location and only accessible by public health staff that need the information to contact or follow up with someone in relation to COVID-19. 

Quarantine is usually done at home and is voluntary. Quarantine is used for a person that has been in close contact with someone with a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 while the lab-confirmed case was ill. 

R0  (Pronounced "R Naught")
R0, pronounced “R naught,” is a mathematical term that indicates how contagious an infectious disease is. It’s also referred to as the reproduction number. As an infection is transmitted to new people, it reproduces itself.
R0 tells you the average number of people who will contract a contagious disease from one person with that disease. It specifically applies to a population of people who were previously free of infection and haven’t been vaccinated.
For example, if a disease has an R0 of 18, a person who has the disease will transmit it to an average of 18 other people. That replication will continue if no one has been vaccinated against the disease or is already immune to it in their community. 

Recovered (from COVID-19)
An individual diagnosed with COVID-19 is counted as 'recovered' if, 28 days after symptoms began or a specimen was collected, they are alive and not hospitalized. 

Seroprevalence Study
How many people have been infected with COVID-19? Who is more likely to be infected and how severe are their symptoms? And are there common risk factors we can identify among people who became infected so we can reduce risk?
Public health officials are hunting for answers to these questions and more.  Some state and local officials are doing seroprevalence studies to answer these questions.  Studies analyze participants blood to determine the presence of antibodies to the virus COVID-19.  An antibody test is different from a test that tells someone if they are currently infected with COVID-19. 

The Board of Cowlitz County Commissioners considered doing a seroprevalence study in Cowlitz.  After significant research, they have concluded that there are already several studies being done across the state and across the country that would give the same information.  They do not plan to have a Cowlitz County-specific study at this time. 

Specimen Collection Date
Rather than using dates cases are reported to us by healthcare providers or dates symptoms began to calculate rates and trends, we use specimen collection dates instead.  This is because some of our cases do not have any symptoms, so this is a much more consistent date to use.

Our test and case counts are currently based on PCR tests. Antigen tests are not currently included in our test counts. The number of negative tests includes the total number of negative tests, as opposed to the total number of people with a negative test result. For example, if a person has a negative test result in May, and another negative test in June, both of these test will be included in our data. Positive test results are handled differently. Only the first positive PCR test result is included in our data, even if a person has more than one positive test.

Is there a term you’re looking for, but we haven’t listed it?   Email us at to let us know and we may add it!