The United Nations health agency revealed on Tuesday that “COVID-19” will be the official name of China’s deadly virus, saying the disease posed a “very serious threat” to the world but there was a “realistic chance” to stop it.
“We now have a name for the disease and it’s COVID-19,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.
Tedros said “co” means “corona,” “vi” means “virus” and “d” means “disease,” while “19” is for the year, as the outbreak was first detected on 31 December.
Tedro remarked that the name had been chosen in order to avoid links to a specific geographical location, animal species, or a group of people in accordance with international recommendations for naming intended to prevent stigmatisation.
WHO had named the virus “2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease” temporarily while China’s National Health Commission said this week that it was calling the virus the “novel coronavirus pneumonia” or NCP.
A set of guidelines issued in 2015 states that WHO does not recommend using place name such as Ebola and Zika, the origin of those diseases and which are permanently remembered by them.
General names such as “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome” or “Spanish flu” are also being avoided because of their ability to stigmatise entire places and ethnic groups.
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Using animal species in the name can cause confusion, says the WHO, similar to the case when H1N1 in 2009 was being referred to as “swine flu.” This, in turn, led to a frenzy in the pork industry despite the disease having been caused by people rather than pigs.
Using people’s names – particularly the scientist’s name who identified the disease – is also banned along with “terms that incite undue fear” such as “unknown” or “fatal”, the WHO further stated.