The World Health Organization on Tuesday announced that “COVID-19” will be the official name of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,000 people and infected over 42,000 globally. The healthy agency said the virus represents a “very grave threat” to the world, but there is still a “realistic chance” of stopping it. “We now have a name for the disease and it’s COVID-19,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva. Ghebreyesus said that “co” stands for “corona,” “vi” for “virus,” “d” for disease,” and “19” for the year that the outbreak was declared. “We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease,” Ghebreyesus added. “Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing. It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.” WHO, under a set of guidelines, advises against using place names such as Ebola, Zika, or Spanish flu—where diseases were first identified—as they can stigmatize regions or ethnic groups.
Efforts to develop a vaccine in Australia, China, France, Germany, and the United States are being led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. “It’s hard to believe that just two months ago, this virus, which has come to captivate the attention of media, financial markets and political leaders, was completely unknown to us,” the WHO chief said.