Say goodbye to “the coronavirus” and hello to Covid-19.
That’s the official name for the new flulike coronavirus disease first identified in Wuhan, China, announced by the World Health Organization Tuesday.
The “Co” stands for corona, “vi” for virus and “d” for disease. The WHO appended it with “-19” to demarcate 2019 as the year it was first recognized in humans.
“Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, told reporters at a press conference. “It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreak.”
WHO guidelines for naming diseases advise against including geographic locations; the names of people, animals or foods; and cultural, population, industry or occupational references.
The guidelines were agreed to in 2015 after names like “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome” in 2012 and “swine flu” in 2009 proved stigmatizing and problematic. In 2009, for instance, Egypt ordered 300,000 pigs slaughtered over fears of swine flu ― even though the virus wasn’t present in the country.
According to the WHO, the new naming rules “aim to minimize unnecessary negative impact of disease names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.”
As of Tuesday morning, there were 42,708 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in China and 1,017 fatalities. An additional 393 cases exist in 24 countries outside China, with one reported death in the Philippines.