What COVID-19 Really Means or How the Virus Got Its Name

The recently appeared Coronavirus is responsible for the global pandemic of COVID-19. The WHO gave it a name back in February. COVID-19 is short for “The Illness of Corona Virus 2019”. The reason is that the first case of this uncharacteristic pneumonia was reported on the 31. December 2019 in Wuhan, China. However, there are some doubts that this virus was around even before the start of this pandemic.

At the same time, WHO published the official name of the virus SARS-CoV-2. It was named like that since this virus is a genetic cousin of SARS-CoV who was responsible for the pandemic back in 2003. Yet, that virus was remembered only as a SARS, which is short for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

How WHO Gives a Name to the Illness?

WHO has three rules when it comes to giving a name to a new illness or virus. Now we are going to present them to you:

  • They need to be short and easily spoken
  • Can present a combination of a descriptive word (like respiratory) and with the condition (like progressive)
  • It’s preferred to have everyday language instead of technical
  • If the pathogen who causes the illness is known, it needs to be included in the name

Naturally, there are rules of what should not be included:

  • Words that cause fear (like fatal)
  • Countries of geographical terms
  • Animals or items
  • Human names
  • Terms connected to certain industries or jobs

These rules are not strictly followed sometimes. Therefore, we have terms like Bird Flu (Avian Influenza), Spanish Flu, MRSA infection, Legionella Pneumophila, etc.