Word Power | Lesson 1: Coronaviruses

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses, some of which cause disease in people and animals, named for crownlike spikes on their surfaces.

A family at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam on July 28, 2020. The country is on high alert as both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have detected locally transmitted COVID-19 cases. Photo: EPA/Jiji

The viruses can cause the common cold or more severe diseases, such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and COVID-19, the latter of which first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.

Referring to simply “the coronavirus” is acceptable on first reference in stories about COVID-19. While the phrasing incorrectly implies there is only one coronavirus, it is clear in this context. Also acceptable on first reference: “the new coronavirus” or “the new virus” for the virus; COVID-19 for the disease caused by the virus.

Passages and stories focusing on the science of the disease require sharper distinctions.

COVID-19, which stands for “coronavirus disease 2019,” is caused by a virus named “SARS-CoV-2”. When referring specifically to the virus, “the COVID-19 virus” and “the virus that causes COVID-19” are acceptable.

But, because “COVID-19” is the name of the disease, not the virus, it is not accurate to write “a new virus called COVID-19”. Also incorrect are usages such as “COVID-19 spreads through the air”; “scientists are investigating how long COVID-19 may remain on surfaces”; “she worries about catching COVID-19”. In each of those, it should be “the coronavirus,” not “COVID-19”.

Do not shorten to “COVID,” even in headlines, unless part of a quotation or proper name.

In stories, do not refer simply to “coronavirus” without the article “the”. Not: “She is concerned about coronavirus.” Omitting “the” is acceptable in headlines and in uses such as: “He said coronavirus concerns are increasing.”

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, breathing trouble, sore throat, muscle pain, and loss of taste or smell. Most people develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia.

“SARS” is acceptable on first reference for the disease first identified in Asia in 2003. Spell out “severe acute respiratory syndrome” later in the story.

“MERS” is acceptable on first reference for the disease first identified in 2012. Spell out “Middle East respiratory syndrome” later in the story.

Source: The Associated Press Stylebook


1. coronavirus /kəˈrəʊnəvaɪrəs/ (n): [C, U] ​a type of virus that causes diseases in humans and animals. In humans, it usually causes respiratory infections (= in the nose, throat, or chest) that are not serious, but that can sometimes cause more serious infections that can kill people. (vi-rút cô-rô-na)

E.g. The government introduced travel restrictions in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

2. spike /spaɪk/ (n): [C] a thin object with a sharp point, especially a pointed piece of metal, wood, etc. (que nhọn, chông)

E.g. There were large spikes on top of the railings to stop people climbing over them.

3. severe /sɪˈvɪr/ (severer/more severe, severest/most severe)​ (adj): extremely bad or serious (cực xấu, nghiêm trọng)

E.g. Another man, in his 20s, was airlifted to Basildon Hospital where he is in intensive care with a severe head injury and with a broken arm and leg.

4. SARS /sɑːrz/ (n): [U] an illness that is easily spread from person to person, which affects the lungs and can sometimes cause death (the abbreviation for ‘severe acute respiratory syndrome’) (hội chứng hô hấp cấp tính nặng)

E.g. No new SARS cases have been reported in the region.

5. MERS /mɝːz/ (n): a serious infectious illness that causes difficulty in breathing and sometimes death (the abbreviation for “Middle East respiratory syndrome”) (Hội chứng viêm đường hô hấp vùng Trung Đông)

E.g. Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), also known as camel flu, is a viral respiratory infection caused by the MERS-coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

6. COVID-19 /ˌkəʊvɪd naɪnˈtiːn/ (also nCoV) (n): [U] a type of coronavirus that was first reported in 2019 and became a pandemic

E.g. Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

7. reference /ˈrefrəns/ (n): [C, U] a thing you say or write that mentions sb/sth else; the act of mentioning sb/sth (lời/sự đề cập)

E.g. There is no direct reference to her own childhood in the novel.

8. phrasing /ˈfreɪzɪŋ/ (n): [U] ​the words used to express sth (từ ngữ diễn đạt)

E.g. I don’t remember her exact phrasing.

9. distinction (between A and B) /dɪˈstɪŋkʃn/ (n): [C] a clear difference or contrast especially between people or things that are similar or related (sự khác biệt/tương phản)

E.g. We can see a sharp distinction between ambition and greed.

10. mild /maɪld/ (milder, mildest) (adj): not severe or strong (nhẹ, êm dịu)

E.g. The disease can be serious even where there are only mild symptoms.

11. complication /ˌkɑːmplɪˈkeɪʃn/ (n): ​[C, usually pl.] (medical) a new problem or illness that makes treatment of a previous one more complicated or difficult (biến chứng)

E.g. While most medical complications are easily identified and are treated in a timely manner, not all are recognized soon enough.

12. pneumonia /nuːˈməʊniə/ (n): [U] ​a serious illness affecting one or both lungs that makes breathing difficult (bệnh viêm phổi)

E.g. Her father died from/of double pneumonia (= pneumonia in both lungs).


Fill in each blank with the correct word.

complications – coronavirus – distinction – mild – phrasing – reference – severe – spike – symptoms – pneumonia

1. COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new form of _______________. It was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan City in China.

2. Early _______________ of respiratory disease may often be ignored by the public.

3. He used some careful _______________ to avoid confirming the rumors.

4. He was believed to have been suffering from _______________ and his health had been the subject of concern for some time.

5. I nearly died when I was 13 after I got impaled on a metal _______________.

6. Most people with a _______________ case of COVID-19 can rest at home and self-isolate.

7. Pneumonia is one of the common _______________ faced by bed-ridden patients.

8. She draws an important _______________ between the different kinds of illness.

9. She made no _______________ to her illness but only to her future plans.

10. Some people are at higher risk for _______________ illness from COVID-19, including older adults and people with certain underlying medical conditions.

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