COVID-19 is a disease caused by novel type of corona virus recently causing epidemic in many countries, causing enforced quarantine and mandatory self-isolation of millions. This virus first appeared in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Before it has official name from World Health Organization (WHO), some people called it Wuhan virus, some others called it corona virus, some called it with technically better name of Novel Corona Virus 2019 (nCoV-2019). Months later, the name confusion continues. Even worse, some are using it to spread hate.
First, the term “corona virus” itself does not specifically refer to Novel Corona Virus 2019 causing COVID-19 disease. Corona virus is the general name for viruses with crown-like spikes on their surface.
There are 7 known human-disease viruses that belong to corona virus category:
1. 229E alpha
2. NL63 alpha
3. OC43 beta
4. HKU1 beta
5. MERS-CoV (causing MERS disease)
6. SARS-CoV (causing SARS disease)
7. SARS-CoV-2 (previously known as nCoV-2019) that causes COVID-19 disease
When we use the term “corona virus”, it means all 7 viruses above, including SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV that we have heard in the past.
Should we call it Wuhan virus? Ebola virus got its name from Ebola river in Congo where the virus started anyway. Also, MERS was named using “Middle East” as part of its abbreviation.
If we call COVID-19 virus as Wuhan virus, or even China virus, by the same logic H1N1 should be called Californian virus. Or San Diego virus perhaps? Wait, American virus works, too. Just like SARS is not Guangdong virus and MERS is not Wadi Aldwasir virus, we use the official name. Ebola was actually an official name, just so happen to be taken from a river in the ground zero. It was not the naming standard and should not become one.
So some viruses and diseases were named using place name, some were not. Where do we draw the line?
The point is to use official name. Imagine if WHO decided to call this WRS-CoV (Wuhan Respiratory Syndrome) for example, I wouldn’t have any problem in using that. But it’s not. The official name is SARS-CoV-2 (or technically we can still call it Novel Corona virus 2019), so let’s just use this instead. COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by this virus.
Using a bunch of different name would cause inconsistencies at best, or will spread racism and flaming behaviour at worst. These are the last thing we need right now.
COVID-19 epidemic is a serious matter, yet not a reason for over-the-top panic. Let’s do what we can as community to go through this together.
On slightly-unrelated note, Australia, please kindly stop the toilet paper rush buying. That’s really embarrassing.