Coronavirus is actually a group of viruses, which includes the ones causing the common cold and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
The viruses are named for the corona, or crown, of surface proteins that the virus uses to penetrate the cells of its host.
World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines state: “given the increasingly rapid and global communication through social media and other electronic means, it is important that an appropriate disease name is assigned by those who first report a new human disease.”
So this specific member of that group and the disease it causes needed to have it’s own unique name.
So Corona Virus Disease 19 or CoVid-19 is the name for the outbreak now happening across the world.
So how was this name determined?
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said under the agreed guidelines WHO “had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease.”
It’s also to “minimise unnecessary negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare” and to “avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups” according WHO.
Having a name which does not cause any stigma is essential as the wrong name can be more dangerous politically, socially and economically to countries around the world than even terrorism.
This virus is not a Chinese virus although there is a some stigma happening with even Chinese restaurants being shunned for fear that people may somehow contract it from the people, place or even food from that venue. This reinforces why the choice of name for new and emerging viruses is so important.
Another example is “Swine Flu”, which from 2009 has been named as Influenza A (H1N1) as the original name was directly affecting the trade in meat and especially pork across the world.