COVID-19 Glossary of Terms


Case investigation - When the NDDoH or other public health partner interviews someone who has COVID-19 to determine where or by whom the individual may have gotten infected, understand symptoms, obtain demographics and underlying health conditions, and to identify close contacts.

Clinically diagnosed - When a person is diagnosed with a disease by their health care provider based on symptoms and risk factors, but they do not have a laboratory test to confirm the diagnosis.

Close contact - Being within 6 feet of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time (greater than 15 minutes). A close contact would also be someone who was directly coughed or sneezed on or a health care worker who was not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.

Community mitigation - Actions that people and communities can take to help slow the spread of viruses, including seasonal and pandemic influenza.

Contact tracing - People in close contact with someone who is infected with a virus, such as COVID-19, are at higher risk of becoming infected themselves, and of potentially further infecting others. The NDDoH and other public health partners follow-up with close contacts of COVID-19 cases to notify them of their exposure, check for symptoms/signs of infection, and advise them of their quarantine period.

Flatten the curve - Flattening the curve refers to taking protective actions, often called community mitigation measures, that help slow the spread of a disease so the health care system does not get overwhelmed by having a lot of very sick people all at once. The protective actions can be things like canceling large gatherings, keeping space between people (called social distancing), and continuing to do things like washing hands, covering coughs, and staying home when sick.

High-risk - Those considered high-risk include older people or those with certain underlying health conditions. These include blood disorders, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, a compromised immune system, late term or recent pregnancy, endocrine disorders, metabolic disorders, heart disease, lung disease, and neurological conditions. Check with your health care provider to see if you are considered high-risk.

Isolation - When a person who is showing symptoms of a disease separates themselves from other people to prevent spreading the disease to others. People who test positive for COVID-19 have to be isolated for at least 10 days after symptom onset and be fever free for 72 hours (without the use of medications) and have improvement in symptoms. People who are immunocompromised, hospitalized or health care workers may need to be isolated longer.

Lab-confirmed case - When a person is diagnosed with a disease that is confirmed through having specimens (samples) tested in a laboratory.

Monitoring - When an individual checks his/her temperature twice per day and watches for symptoms of COVID-19. Self-monitoring should be conducted by everyone in North Dakota but is especially important for travelers from high-risk areas and essential workers. Active monitoring is when the NDDoH or other public health partner is calling a case or contact each day to check on his/her temperatures and symptoms.

Pandemic - A global outbreak of disease. Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread easily between people.

Quarantine - When a person who was exposed to a disease but does not have symptoms separates themselves from others for a period of time to prevent potentially spreading the disease to others. The quarantine period for COVID-19 is 14 days from the last time an individual was exposed to a case while the case was contagious.

Social distancing or physical distancing - When individuals voluntarily choose to stay home versus going out in public. This means keeping at least six feet between you and other people. Do not gather in small, crowded areas. If it’s not an essential gathering, consider postponing or gathering virtually. Check local guidelines for recommendations.

Suspected case - A person who may have a disease because of their symptoms and risk factors based on current guidelines, but this person was not tested.