INTERACTIVE: Everything you always wanted to know about Covid-19 terms (but were afraid to ask)

PETALING JAYA: It can be hard to keep up with Covid-19 related terminology used in media reports and official statements about the pandemic.

This could include phrases such as flattening the curve, acronyms such as AEFI and an alphabet-and-numbers soup of virus variant names such as P.1 and B.1.351.

If you occasionally struggle to make sense what some of these things mean and why they're important, you are not alone.

Even in other countries such as the United Kingdom for instance, research has found that nearly half the population is unclear about what “antigen” or “epidemiologist” means and cannot explain what a variant is.

What does it all mean?

Here's an interactive graphic of some Covid-19 terms and their definitions.

Meet the variants

A lot has been said about new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. But what exactly is a variant and which ones are circulating in Malaysia?

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that viruses, including the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, are constantly changing through mutation.

These genetic variations occur over time and can lead to the emergence of new variants that may have different characteristics.

Three variants are of particular concern:

B.1.1.7 - Identified last year in the United Kingdom. A total of 70 countries have so far reported the variant.

B.1.351 - First identified in South Africa in October last year, B.1.351 shares some mutations with B.1.1.7. More than 30 countries have reported this variant.

P.1 - First identified in travellers from Brazil who were tested during routine screenings at an airport in Japan last month. This variant contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognised by antibodies. More than four countries have reported this variant.

These three variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than others.

The CDC, however, noted that so far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorised vaccines recognise these variants.

Here are the variants detected in Malaysia so far:


There are two known popular Covid-19 tests available and used by the health authorities worldwide to detect the virus.

The two tests – reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and antigen rapid test kit (RTK-Ag) – require nasal or throat swab samples.

Yet another Covid-19 test is the antibody test, which unlike the RT-PCR and RTK-Ag tests, is detected through a blood sample.

Take the quiz

Hopefully, you are now more familiar with at least some of the Covid-19 terms.

If you feel ready for a challenge, try the quiz below. Good luck!

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