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The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has a name: Covid-19.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, announced the name Tuesday, giving a specific identifier to a disease that has been confirmed in more than 42,000 people and caused more than 1,000 deaths in China. There have been fewer than 400 cases in 24 other countries, with one death.

In choosing the name, WHO advisers focused simply on the type of virus that causes the disease. Co and Vi come from coronavirus, Tedros explained, with D meaning disease and 19 standing for 2019, the year the first cases were seen.


The virus that causes the disease has been known provisionally as 2019-nCoV. Also on Tuesday, a coronavirus group from the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, which is responsible for naming new viruses, proposed designating the novel coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2, according to a preprint of a paper posted online. (Preprints are versions of papers that have not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.) The name reflects the genetic similarities between the new coronavirus and the coronavirus that caused the SARS outbreak of 2002-2003.

In selecting Covid-19 as the name of the disease, the WHO name-givers steered clear of linking the outbreak to China or the city of Wuhan, where the illness was first identified. Although origin sites have been used in the past to identify new viruses, such a namesake is now seen as denigrating. Some experts have come to regret naming the infection caused by a different coronavirus the Middle East respiratory syndrome.


“Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing,” Tedros said. “It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.”

Viruses and the disease they cause do not have to have related names — think HIV and AIDS — but more recently those responsible for the formal naming process have kept them associated. For example, SARS, the disease, is caused by SARS-CoV, the virus.

The provisional name of the new virus stemmed from the year it was first seen (2019), the fact that it was new (n), and a member of the coronavirus family (CoV).

A clear name could also stop the ad hoc identifiers that have sprung up in the press and online, many of which, like the Wuhan virus or Wu Flu, linked the virus to the city.

  • So Reuters or China’s CDC? Which is more accurate and up-to-date. I double check with the Chinese language website of the China CDC too! DO you read Chinese? Don’t think so! I do!

    Rounding off? So if you are selling someone your personal luxury auto for $74,281, you wiould settle for only $74,000? Id you were applying for a job that listed the annual salary as $74,281, you would tell the employer that you would accept less for only $74,000? What a joke!

    • Maybe it is a joke for you, but talking about suffering humans beings is not a joke for me and I’d appreciate it if you change your tone, nobody attacked you or your people here. So stop acting like a fragile little princes and try to understand what is said for what in my comment since you are so interested in it. And for that, first you need to understand the concept of generalizing. Why is it such an unacceptable concept for you to realise that it is actually a nesecity to round down numbers if we are talking about something that constantly changing and nothing is even remotely correct if we are talking about a fast spreading dangerous epidemic that effects thousands of people. Your ranting about salaries shows how little you know about what I’m talking about. Your point of view about this is so dull, I’m having a hard time telling you without insulting you. At the time when it’s reported, the number of infected people, whic was “74.281” doesn’t stay the way it is just because your beloved CGTV said so. It changes the moment it is reported. That is why you generalize things, that is why you round down the numbers. You can’t even comprehend the concept of rounding down and you are feeling so ok to argue with me like “what is your info source” or “who should we really belave.” Not your government, that’s for sure. I’m sure numbers are much more higher than what is reported. and you are not gonna save your people’s pride by arguing on trivial matters you don’t even understand.

  • Samil<

    You are not up-to-date. What is your information source? Care to share it?

    CGTV, quoting Cina's CDC, announced a few hours ago that for China, the numbers are 74,281 and 2,009, respectively

    • Not up to date how? Numbers are rounded down in mine if you look careful which is why I implied “more than” in my reply there is no difference between your report and mine. My source is Reuters, they probably picked up the info from CGTV too.

  • Funny situation, naming a killing virus this/that when gone pandemic. The ‘virus’ really had chosen its name everyone reckons, Wuhan-virus or Wuhan Coronavirus. Everyone knows that. Besides Co means coronavirus and not so good because around 30% of our usual ‘colds’ are in fact coronaviruses!
    Is there anyone that would expect the Spanish-flu to be speaking Spanish or really have any stigma against Spain? Neh, we are not that stupid, are we? 😉 Avoiding Wuhan in the name, is simply just a fact where it was discovered and everyone knows the world over. That won’t change by any other name.
    As a doc myself would name the virus in honor the Chinese doctor who first warned about this outbreak, Li Wenliang, like Chin-Li-Virus or CLI-virus for short (C-Li-virus (reads see-Li), as he first saw/warned of the danger) from China-Li-virus. Thats according to the ‘naming tradition within medicine’
    First tried 2019-nCoV, but used only in parenthesis to Wuhan-virus, know suggested CoVid19, sorry, does anyone think this will stick? Not me

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