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Disease Caused by the Novel Coronavirus Officially Has a Name- COVID-19 - Scientific American

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Public Health

DISEASE CAUSED BY THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS OFFICIALLY HAS A NAME:
COVID-19

The World Health Organization chose the name based on the type of
virus and the year the first cases were seen

* By Andrew Joseph
, STAT
on February 11, 2020

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THE NEW CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

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The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has a name: COVID-19.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health
Organization, announced the name Tuesday, giving a specific identifier
to a disease that has been confirmed in more than 42,000 people and
caused more than 1,000 deaths in China. There have been fewer than 400
cases in 24 other countries, with one death.

In choosing the name, WHO advisers focused simply

on the type of virus that causes the disease. Co and Vi come from
coronavirus, Tedros explained, with D meaning disease and 19 standing
for 2019, the year the first cases were seen.

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The virus that causes the disease has been known provisionally as
2019-nCoV. Also on Tuesday, a coronavirus group from the International
Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, which is responsible for naming new
viruses, proposed designating the novel coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2,
according to a preprint of a paper
posted
online. (Preprints are versions of papers that have not yet been
peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.) The name reflects
the genetic similarities between the new coronavirus and the
coronavirus that caused the SARS outbreak of 2002-2003.


Read more from this special report:

THE NEW CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

In selecting COVID-19 as the name of the disease, the WHO name-givers
steered clear of linking the outbreak to China or the city of Wuhan,
where the illness was first identified. Although origin sites have
been used in the past to identify new viruses, such a namesake is now
seen as denigrating. Some experts have come to regret naming the
infection caused by a different coronavirus the Middle East
respiratory syndrome.

“Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be
inaccurate or stigmatizing,” Tedros said. “It also gives us a
standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.”

Viruses and the disease they cause do not have to have related
names—think HIV and AIDS—but more recently those responsible for
the formal naming process have kept them associated. For example,
SARS, the disease, is caused by SARS-CoV, the virus.

The provisional name of the new virus stemmed from the year it was
first seen (2019), the fact that it was new (n), and a member of the
coronavirus family (CoV).

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A clear name could also stop the ad hoc identifiers that have sprung
up in the press and online, many of which, like the Wuhan virus or Wu
Flu, linked the virus to the city.

_Republished with permission from STAT .
This article originally appeared

on February 11 2020_

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

ANDREW JOSEPH

RECENT ARTICLES

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