Coronavirus will get a name but not after any places or animals


The coronavirus sweeping through China and spreading across the world could be about to get an official name, scientists say.

Although the subject of news articles, social media posts and political discussions throughout the past month, the virus has not yet got an approved name.

It has been dubbed 2019-nCoV, which means it is a novel (new) type of coronavirus discovered in 2019, but this is just a temporary placeholder.

Other unofficial, potentially inaccurate, names for it have emerged, including the China coronavirus, Wuhan coronavirus and even 'snake flu'.

But scientists at the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) say they have chosen a name for the bug and submitted it for official approval.

The researchers have not revealed the name they settled on but say it could be announced within days.

It must not contain geography, human names or cultural references, they said, to avoid abusive backlash or potential racism, and it should avoid animal or food names because they could be inaccurate.

The news of the approaching naming comes as the total number of people infected worldwide has risen to more than 34,000 and 724 are now dead.

'It has to roll off the tongue a little faster than the other names out there,' Dr Benjamin Neuman, a Texas A&M University researcher, told the BBC.

The other two viruses which are most similar to the coronavirus are SARS and MERS.

These are abbreviations of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

It is likely that the virus which originated in Wuhan will follow a similar line although naming it after the region, as MERS was, would likely not be approved.

The World Health Organization published disease-naming guidelines with recommended words, ones to avoid and bad examples of names.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is listed as a bad example, as well as Spanish Flu, Lyme disease, Japanese encephalitis, swine flu, bird flu and monkey pox.

All are too specific and could cause unjustified 'backlash' against the things they are named after, it says. 

Other words to avoid are scary ones such as 'unknown', 'death', 'fatal' and 'epidemic'. 

It has taken more than a month for people to come up with a proper name for the virus, in part, the researchers said, because there were more important things to be doing at the beginning of the outbreak.

Helping health authorities work out what to do to stop the virus, for example, and getting a deeper understanding of how it was spreading and what symptoms it caused. 

During that time the 2019-nCoV has not become widely used because it is a mouthful.

Dr Crystal Watson, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, said: 'The name it has now is not easy to use and the media and the public are using other names for the virus.

'The danger when you don't have an official name is that people start using terms like China Virus, and that can create a backlash against certain populations.'

This is the reason why the researchers said they would not include a place name in the official moniker.

And they wanted to avoid animal names, too despite scientists being confident the virus originated in bats in case that led to people slaughtering the animals. 

When 'swine flu' was named a decade ago, despite it spreading in people and not pigs, Egyptian authorities slaughtered all of the country's 80,000 pigs.

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk

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