What that means is that

Corona technical vocabulary: What does ... actually mean?


The term asymptomatic ("without symptoms") is used for infections or diseases without symptoms. In medicine, all signs that occur in connection with a disease are summarized as symptoms. A distinction is made as to whether these are perceived by the patient himself (subjective symptom) or by the doctor (objective symptom). If a disease develops without such recognizable symptoms, one speaks of an asymptomatic course.


#Flattenthecurve is a hashtag that has received a lot of attention in connection with the coronavirus. According to the translation "flatten the curve", it stands for the request to contribute to slowing down the spread of the virus through your own behavior. Measures such as avoiding social contact are intended to prevent an exponential course of the curve in which one infected person usually infects several people. This would cause the number of people infected with the coronavirus to grow rapidly and jeopardize the performance of the health system.

German Infection Protection Act

The Infection Protection Act (IfGS) defines the handling of notifiable diseases in Germany. The purpose of the law is to prevent communicable diseases in humans, to detect infections at an early stage and to prevent them from spreading. The IfSG regulates which diseases and which laboratory diagnostic evidence of pathogens are notifiable, which information is provided by those subject to reporting and which of this information is passed on by the health department. As a special area of ​​hazard prevention, infection protection is part of the legal field of police law. On the basis of the IfSG, the basic rights of physical integrity, the freedom of a person, the freedom of movement, the freedom of assembly, the confidentiality of letters and mail and the inviolability of the home may be restricted and a professional ban may be imposed.


Infectivity describes the ability of a pathogen to actually infect a person - or in general a host - after exposure. One speaks therefore of contagiousness. Infectivity depends on individual properties that differ from pathogen to pathogen. This includes, for example, the ability to adhere to body surfaces.

News about the corona crisis

Everything you need to know about the coronavirus and our services and offers in the current crisis situation.

incubation period

The incubation period is the time between infection and the onset of the disease. This phase is different in length for each disease and can last hours or weeks - it depends on how quickly the pathogens multiply in the body. For the flu, for example, the incubation period is between one and two days, with hepatitis C between 15 and 50 days. And with COVID-19, the incubation period is between one and 14 days, with an average of five to six days.


The term incidence is derived from the Latin verb "incidere" - which translates as "to occur". In a medical context, one speaks of incidence when the incidence rate of a certain disease is meant. For a classifying comparison of these case numbers - for example, when it comes to corona infections - the number of people affected per 100,000 inhabitants is used as a basis. The following is included in the calculation: the number of newly occurring diseases within a group of people of a certain size during a certain period of time. The so-called "cumulative incidence" describes the risk or the probability with which a person will develop a certain disease in a defined period of time.

Reporting requirement

For certain diseases such as measles, rubella or mumps, reporting is mandatory in Germany. If a doctor discovers a reportable illness in a patient, he must report this to the responsible health department. Since the end of January 2020, infection with the coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2) is also notifiable, even if it is only a justified suspicion. By the way: Not only doctors have to report illnesses, pharmacists or test laboratories, for example, are also obliged to do so.


Pneumonia is the medical name for inflammation of the lung tissue. It is the most common fatal infectious disease in industrialized countries. It is mostly caused by bacteria, especially pneumococci. But there are also viruses that cause pneumonia, for example the coronavirus. Not everyone infected with it will develop pneumonia. Usually the immune system can keep the pathogens in check. For people with a weakened immune system, however, pneumonia caused by the coronavirus is life-threatening.

More information:
Pneumonia - what is it?


As a rule, the term prevalence is used in the sense of a reference date prevalence. Accordingly, it states how many people in a population are sick with a certain disease at a certain point in time (disease frequency) and thus answers the question, for example, of how many people in Germany were infected with the coronavirus on March 23, 2020. In addition to the prevalence on the reference date, a period prevalence is also recorded in some cases, for example: how many people have the coronavirus in a month. The prevalence cannot always be measured precisely. In the case of large epidemics, it can only be estimated.

Smear infection

Viruses and bacteria can survive on objects for a few hours to a few days, sometimes even longer. If you touch the contaminated object during this time, the pathogen can get into your own hands. If you then touch the face with your hands, it can reach the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose or eyes and lead to an infection. This type of infection is called a smear infection. Thorough, regular hand washing with soap can significantly reduce the risk of smear infection. Laboratory tests have shown that the coronavirus can survive for a few hours to a few days. However, experts assume that Sars-CoV-2 is mainly transmitted through the droplet infection.


The corona virus spreads through human contact - above all through droplet infection through coughing, sneezing, speaking. That's why #SocialDistancing is so important. This means avoiding social contacts as much as possible in order to slow down the spread of the virus. And thus to help so that sick people can be better helped. Of course, you don't have to sit in isolation at home: the virus doesn't spread via phone, chat, email or video telephony!


How tough is a pathogen? How long can it survive in conditions that are not ideal for it - for example in the air or on objects? This resistance is called tenacity in microbiology. Decisive factors are, for example, temperature, humidity or UV radiation.

Droplet infection

There are different ways in which pathogens can be transmitted and spread. In the case of the coronavirus, it is primarily the droplet infection: an infected person releases the pathogen with the moist air they breathe, for example when speaking, laughing and especially when coughing or sneezing. Other people nearby breathe in the pathogen with the air and become infected with it. The best protection is therefore: keep your distance!