The new coronavirus disease that was first identified in Wuhan has received an official name from the World Health Organization: “COVID-19.”
“COVI” comes from coronavirus. The “D” stands for disease. The 19 represents 2019, the year the virus was first identified, in December.
The name will apply for the “entire spectrum” of cases, from mild to severe, according to a WHO spokesperson.
The disease had been given the temporary name “2019-nCoV” by WHO in January, identifying the pathogen as a novel (previously unidentified, that is) coronavirus that first emerged in humans in 2019.
As weeks went by, people began calling it “Wuhan virus.” But that’s a problematic label. World Health Organization guidelines for naming infectious diseases, issued in 2015, discourage names that refer to specific places, people and professions, aiming to avoid negative repercussions from stigmatizing a geographic area or a population group.
In addition, no food or animal names should be used, the guidelines say — “swine flu” is listed as an example to be avoided after fear of that pathogen led the Egyptian government to order the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of pigs.