WHO officially names coronavirus disease COVID-19

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

February 12, 2020 -- The World Health Organization (WHO) on February 11 announced an official designation for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), naming the condition COVID-19.

WHO previously had used the term "novel coronavirus pneumonia" to refer to the disease caused by 2019-nCoV infection. But the agency noted that new coronaviruses will likely emerge in the future, so the term "novel" will no longer be well-suited for the 2019 virus.

WHO noted that the new naming convention will provide a format for referring to new coronavirus diseases in the future. Previous diseases caused by coronaviruses were given names that described their clinical manifestations, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Shortly after the WHO announcement naming the disease, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses named the virus causing it SARS-CoV-2. The committee presented its rationale in a paper posted to the bioRxiv preprint server.


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