Appendix G: Glossary of Terms

Active Surveillance: Involves health departments proactively contacting healthcare providers or laboratories requesting information about diseases.

Aerosol: Fine liquid or solid particles suspended in a gas.

Ambulatory: Persons able to understand directions, talk, and walk unassisted. 

Antimicrobial: A substance, such as an antibiotic, that kills or stops the growth of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, or viruses.

Asymptomatic: Producing or showing no symptoms of a disease.

Bacteria: Microscopic living organisms, usually one-celled organisms.

Biological Incident: Occurrence of cases or outbreaks involving a biological pathogen that affects people, regardless of whether it is naturally occurring or deliberately caused.

BioWatch: System designed to detect the presence of airborne biological agents.

Category A Biologic Agent: Organisms/biological agents that pose the highest risk to national security and public health because they (1) can be easily disseminated or transmitted from person to person, (2) result in high mortality rates and have the potential for major public health impact, (3) might cause public panic and social disruption, and (4) require special action for public health preparedness.

Category B Biologic Agent: Second highest priority organisms/biological agents that (1) are moderately easy to disseminate, (2) result in moderate morbidity rates and low mortality rates, and (3) require specific enhancements for diagnostic capacity and enhanced disease surveillance.

Category C Biologic Agent: Third highest priority and include emerging pathogens that could be engineered for mass dissemination in the future because of (1) availability, (2) ease of production and dissemination, and (3) potential for high morbidity and mortality rates and major health impact.

Causative Agent: Biological pathogen that causes a disease such as a virus, parasite, fungus, or bacterium.

Community NPIs: Strategies and policies that communities and organizations can implement to help slow the spread of illness during an infectious disease outbreak (e.g., social distancing and temporary closing of centers).

Community Reception Centers (CRCs): Local, temporary response strategy for conducting population monitoring in response to an emergency with administrative and allied healthcare assistants and volunteers responsible for emergency care delivery to “all hazards” survivors.

Contact Tracing: Identification and diagnosis of people who may have come into contact with an infected person.

Contagious Disease: Infectious disease that is spread from one person to another. Capable of being transmitted by bodily contact with an infected person. Only some infectious diseases are contagious.

Contaminated: Presence of an infectious agent on a body surface, the environment, also on or in clothes, bedding, toys, surgical instruments or dressings, or other inanimate articles or substances including water, milk, and other food.

Continuity of Government (COG): Coordinated effort within each of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches to ensure that governance and essential functions continue to be performed before, during, and after an emergency.

Continuity of Operations (COOP): Ensures an individual organization can continue to perform its essential functions, provide essential services, and deliver core capabilities during a disruption to routine operations.

Critical Infrastructure: Systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital that the incapacity or destruction of such may have a debilitating impact on the security, economy, public health or safety, environment, or any combination of those matters, across any federal, state, tribal, territorial, or local jurisdiction.

Decontamination: Process of reducing or removing a hazard from the environment, property, or life form through physical removal or neutralization.

Detection: Clinical or laboratory discovery of a biological pathogen.

Disability: Physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

Disease: Sickness, illness, or loss of health.

Disease Surveillance: Epidemiological practice to monitor the spread of disease in people and/or animals in order to establish patterns of progression.

Emergency Declaration: Declared by the President to supplement state and local or Indian tribal government efforts in providing emergency services, such as the protection of lives, property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States.

Emergency Support Functions (ESFs): Structure for coordinating federal interagency support for response to an incident. Grouping of functions that provide federal support to states and federal-to-federal support, both for Stafford Act declared disasters and emergencies and for non-Stafford Act incidents.

Emergency Use Authorization: Mechanism to facilitate the availability and use of MCMs, including vaccines, during public health emergencies.

Endemic: Regularly found among a certain population or in a certain area.

Engineering Controls: Protect workers by removing hazardous conditions or by placing barriers between the worker and the hazard.

Environmental NPIs: Establishment of barriers or specialized equipment to protect persons from biological hazards. These also include routine surface cleaning that helps to eliminate pathogens from frequently touched surfaces and objects in homes, childcare facilities, schools, workplaces, and other settings where people regularly gather.

Environmental Persistence: Length of time a contaminant remains in the environment.

Epi-Aid: Mechanism for public health authorities to request short-term epidemiologic assistance from HHS CDC to respond to an urgent public health problem.

Epidemiological Investigation: Investigation of an urgent public health problem such as infectious disease outbreaks, unexplained illnesses, or natural or man-made disasters.

Epidemiologist: Investigator who studies the occurrence of disease or other health-related conditions, states, or events in specified populations; one who practices epidemiology; the control of disease is advised by the epidemiologist based on his/her investigation. 

Exposed: Unprotected contact to an infectious agent, which may or may not develop disease.

Exposure: Contact with infectious agents (bacteria or viruses) in a manner that promotes transmission and increases the likelihood of disease.

Fatality Management: Coordination of several organizations (e.g., law enforcement, healthcare, emergency management, medical examiner, etc.) to ensure the proper recovery, handling, identification, transportation, tracking, storage, and disposal of human remains.

Hazardous Waste: Waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on human health, animals, plants, or the environment.

Healthcare Coalitions (HCCs): Group of individual healthcare and response organizations (e.g., hospitals, EMS, emergency management organizations, and public health agencies) in a defined geographic location that play a critical role in developing healthcare system preparedness and response capabilities.

Household Pet: A domesticated animal, such as a dog, cat, bird, rabbit, rodent, or turtle, that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes, can travel in commercial carriers, and can be housed in temporary facilities.  Household pets do not include reptiles (except turtles), amphibians, fish, insects/arachnids, farm animals (including horses), and animals kept for racing purposes.

Immunocompromised: Having an impaired immune system.

Incubation Period: Time between exposure to an infectious agent and the appearance of the first symptoms.

Infectious Agents: Organisms capable of spreading disease (e.g., bacteria or viruses).

Infectious Disease: Illness caused by a microorganism (e.g., bacteria, viruses, fungi) that enters the body, multiplies, and can cause an infection. Infectious diseases may be transmitted by contact with infected individuals or their bodily fluids (such as respiratory droplets, blood, or semen), by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites), by ingestion of contaminated water, or by direct or indirect contact with disease vectors (e.g., mosquitoes, fleas, mice). Infectious diseases may also be referred to as communicable or transmissible diseases.

Isolation: Physical separation of individuals with a contagious infectious illness from healthy individuals who have not been exposed to the biological agent. Isolation can be implemented at home or in a separate room in a healthcare setting depending on the specific nature of the biological incident.

Medical Countermeasures (MCMs): Regulated pharmaceutical products and interventions (e.g., prophylaxes, therapeutics, diagnostic tests, personal protective equipment) used to prevent, mitigate, or treat adverse health effects of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear incidents.

Method of Dissemination: Process by which an agent is released into the environment, such as by contamination of food, water, objects, surfaces, infected vectors, aerosol-generation devices, etc.

Mode of Transmission: Infectious agent transfer, through direct or indirect contact, from a natural source to a susceptible host.

Model: Physical, conceptual, or mathematical approximation of a real phenomenon.

Morbidity: Incidence of disease in a population and/or a geographic location.

Mortality: Incidence of death or the number of deaths in a population.

National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC): An entity within DHS, NBIC serves as the designated government entity to synthesize and analyze information collected from across the spectrum of biosurveillance organizations.

Natural Attenuation: Natural processes to clean up or reduce the effect of pollution in soil and groundwater.

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs): Items such as ventilators and devices; personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves; and public health interventions (e.g., contact and transmission interventions, social distancing, and community shielding) to prevent and mitigate the health effects of biological agents, some of which may be HHS FDA-regulated and some of which are not.

Outbreak: Increase in a disease in a certain geographic area, over a certain period of time, above an expected baseline. (An expected baseline may be one case for smallpox, for example, but for other diseases there may be some other baseline level that needs to be exceeded to be considered an outbreak).

Pandemic: Epidemic that has spread to human populations across a large geographic area.

Pathogens: Organisms (e.g., bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi) that cause disease.

Personal NPIs: Protective actions that can help individuals avoid exposure to pathogens and limit the further spread of pathogens in the environment.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Used to minimize exposure to a pathogen and generally refers to clothing (e.g., goggles, shoes, gloves, etc.) and respiratory equipment (e.g., masks, self-contained breathing apparatuses).

Points of Dispensing (PODs): Community locations in which state and local agencies dispense MCMs to the public during a public health emergency.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP): Vaccines and antibiotics given to exposed (or potentially exposed) individuals to inhibit the development of disease.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Mental health condition triggered by either experiencing or witnessing a traumatizing event.

Presidential Policy Directive (PPD): Used to issue Presidential decisions on national security matters.

Prophylaxis: Actions and/or measures taken to prevent disease.

Public Health Emergency: Incident, either natural or man-made, that creates a health risk to the public.

Quarantine: Segregation of individuals, families, groups, and communities that have been exposed to a contagious disease but are not ill. These individuals are physically separated, and their movement restricted within defined geographic areas. Quarantine may be done at home or in a restricted area depending on the specific nature of the biological incident.

Reachback: Products, services, equipment, material, or human resources including subject matter experts from organizations that are not forward deployed.

Recovery Support Functions (RSFs): Comprise the coordinating structure for key functional areas of assistance in the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF). Support local governments by facilitating problem solving, improving access to resources, and fostering coordination among state and federal agencies, non-governmental partners, and stakeholders.

Reservoirs: Habitat where an infectious agent normally lives, grows, and multiplies including humans, animals, or the environment.  

Service Animal: Any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.

Simulation: Imitation of characteristics, processes, or systems over time using another system.

Social Distancing: Actions taken by public health officials to stop or slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease (e.g., closing schools).

Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) Declaration: Invoked by the President of the United States in response to an incident either as requested by the states and/or by a federal agency requesting federal-to-federal assistance.

Strategic National Stockpile (SNS): Managed by HHS ASPR; composed of pharmaceuticals (e.g., medications, antibiotics, and IVs) and medical supplies (e.g., equipment, surgical items, etc.) that may be required to control and/or respond to a public health emergency.

Supply Chain: Steps taken to get a product or service to the end user.

Syndromic Surveillance: Tracking of disease indicators that occur before clinical diagnosis confirmation, such as chief complaint data from urgent medical visits, over-the-counter medication purchases, school absenteeism rates, and keyword (e.g., “fever,” “vomit”) presence on social media platforms.

Symptomatic: Showing symptoms or signs of a disease or injury.

Therapeutics: Remedies for disease including treatments, therapies, and/or drugs.

Vaccine: Killed or weakened microorganism products used to artificially induce immunity against a disease.

Vector/Vector-Borne Diseases: Infections transmitted by the bite of infected arthropod species, such as mosquitoes, ticks, sandflies, and blackflies.

Virulence: Severity or harmfulness of a disease.

Virus: Microscopic organism that multiplies within cells and causes disease such as chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella. Viruses are not affected by antibiotics, the drugs used to kill bacteria.

Zoonotic Diseases: Infectious diseases caused by germs that spread between animals and people. Also known as zoonosis (singular) and zoonoses (plural).

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