The World Health Organisation has announced that “COVID-19” will be the official name of the deadly virus from China, saying the disease represented a “very grave threat” for the world.
WHO Chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told Reporters in Geneva on Tuesday, February 11, 2020, that there was a “realistic chance” of stopping it.
Tedros said the “co” stands for “corona”, “vi” for “virus” and “d” for “disease”, while “19” was for the year, as the outbreak was first identified on December 31, 2019.
The WHO Chief stated that the name had been chosen to avoid references to a specific geographical location, animal species or group of people in line with international recommendations for naming aimed at preventing stigmatisation.
The Organization had earlier given the virus the temporary name of “2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease” and China’s National Health Commission this week said it was temporarily calling it “novel coronavirus pneumonia” or NCP.
Under a set of guidelines issued in 2015, WHO advises against using place names such as Ebola and Zika, where those diseases were first identified and which are now inevitably linked to them in the public mind.
More general names such as “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome” or “Spanish flu” are also now avoided as they can stigmatise entire regions or ethnic groups.
WHO also notes that using animal species in the name can create confusion, such as in 2009 when H1N1 was popularly referred to as “swine flu”; adding that this had a major impact on the pork industry even though the disease was being spread by people rather than pigs.
The WHO said people’s names, usually the scientists who identified the disease, are also banned, as are “terms that incite undue fear” such as “unknown” or “fatal”.