The deadly novel corona virus that invaded and infected over a million human population and killed tens of thousands, which is still out in open challenging medical science and threatening global economy was given the name Novel Coronavirus and official name of the disease caused by this virus was announced on 11th February 2020 Covid-19.
Outbreak of this life-threatening disease that brought the world to its knees first began in Wuhan city of China in December 2019, now called the epicentre of Coronavirus. The first case of this virus affecting a human as identified is linked to one of the wet markets of Wuhan where illegal trading of wildlife is rampant. Although the origin of this virus is still not determined, WHO says an animal appears to be the primary source, likely origin is considered to be from bats. It took not more than a month for this virus to leave its epicentre and turn from an epidemic to a pandemic with an estimated mortality rate of 2.3%.
How Coronavirus got its name
Viruses and the disease caused by them are given separate names. We are often aware of the name of the disease and not of the virus causing it. As an example- Influenza or Flu (as it is commonly called) is a disease caused by H1N1/ H3N2 / H5N1 virus. Also, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
For development of diagnostic tests, medicines, vaccines, Virologists from the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) give name to the viruses based on their genetic structure.
Considering Human disease preparedness and response to it is where WHO comes to play, hence to discuss on disease prevention, spread, transmissibility, severity and treatment, diseases are officially named by WHO in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
ICTV on 11th February 2020, announced “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2) as the name of the new virus causing havoc globally. The name was decided based on the genetic proximity of novel coronavirus to SARS which last appeared in 2003 in the Guangdong province of Southern China.
Novel Coronavirus as the name suggests refer to a new type of virus. Novel means new and Corona in Latin means “Crown”, considering not being previously identified by humans and the crown like shape of this virus , it was initially given the name Novel Coronavirus. Later, it was renamed to COVID-19. The official name of disease caused by SARS-Cov-2 was announced by WHO on 11th February 2020. WHO clarified the reason for choosing this name as it didn’t refer to a specific geographic location, a specific animal or a specific group of people.
Both ICTV and WHO work closely in determining the name of viruses.