Coronavirus: How Medical Translation Can Save the Day!

06th Mar 2020

The recent Coronavirus outbreak that originated from the Wuhan province in China late last December is looming like a potential global pandemic. With cases of the virus reported in different parts of the world, including Australia, Canada, Brazil, Russia and recently sub-Saharan Africa, global fears of a health epidemic are rising. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency over the outbreak of the virus.

Perhaps the scariest thing about the virus is that there is no vaccine to prevent the disease. The strain of viruses affecting human beings was undiscovered until the outbreak in China, and there is no specific antiviral treatment for the disease as of yet.

Another cause for worldwide concern is the symptoms of the infection. The common symptoms include fever, cough, and breathing difficulties. These may make it seem like you have the common cold when in fact, you could have a Coronavirus infection. What’s worse is that, in extreme cases, the infection can cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death.

Keeping this in mind, there is no wonder that the global community has grave concerns about the virus. Different governments and organizations are collaborating to counter the disease and find a possible cure. However, to defeat the virus, we must first understand it. And to understand it, we must study the origin of the outbreak – China. This is where medical translators and interpreters come in.

Who Are Medical Translators and Interpreters?

Medical Translators

Medical (or healthcare) translators have a strong background in the medicinal field. Certified medical translators undergo extensive and thorough training programs that qualify them for practicing in the medical field. This training imparts them with the knowledge and experience of different industry-specific terminologies, proper procedures, and code of ethics to follow when offering their services in these trades. 

Medical translators have the knowledge of different medical concepts that allow them to translate effectively in the field of healthcare. They also know the names of different diseases and medicines in multiple languages, which is an essential part of their job. If you want to translate a medical document, you will need to hire a medical translator.

Medical Interpreters

Medical interpreters, on the other hand, convert spoken dialogue instead of written text into another language to facilitate communication between two parties that do not speak the same language. Medical interpreters offer their services in real-time to facilitate communication without breaking its flow.

Hence, they need to have an extensive vocabulary and an agile mind to recall different terms in different languages quickly. They do not have the time to consult an encyclopedia or dictionary during the conversation. Doing so would only cause interruptions and break the flow of natural communication.

If a doctor needs to communicate with a patient that does not speak the native language, he will require a medical interpreter. If the patient is deaf or hard of hearing, the doctor will need the services of a medical interpreter who is fluent in sign language to communicate effectively with the patient.

Medical interpreters also need to have exemplary psychological resilience. Tensions run high in the healthcare department. Take the Coronavirus outbreak as an example. Where any ordinary person might panic in the proximity of a potentially infected person, a certified medical interpreter will remain calm and collected to effectively offer their services. They will – of course – take the proper precautions against infection. However, they will not allow this fact to deter them from delivering impartial interpretation services.


With the increase in Coronavirus cases reported around the world, global organizations and governments are taking steps to collaborate with each other to find a cure for the virus. In order to facilitate communication between these organizations, there is a clear need for translators and interpreters who are familiar with the healthcare department. Luckily, medical translators and interpreters are here to save the day.