We Don't Name Diseases After Places Anymore

March 23, 2020

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Coronavirus has ushered in a new way of life for all of us and a new worldwide policy in its name.  Its official name is COVID-19 and it’s the first time a pandemic virus has a different naming policy. If you have looked to history, pandemics have been named after a region, landmark or animal or species.  However this practice has some consequences that has fed misinformation and has interfered properly dealing with an outbreak. The pandemic influenza of 1918 is better known as the Spanish Flu. However it incorrectly eludes to its origin in Spain, when it most likely began in Kansas! At the time, the U.S., Brittan, France, Germany and most of Europe was in the midst of World War I and to acknowledge a flu outbreak in the middle of a war was seen as bad for morale. So it was essentially blocked from news.  However the Spanish press did report on it since Spain was neutral in the conflict and therefore, Spain got "credit" for what should've been called the Kansas and American flu of 1918! Unwise names can also interfere with properly dealing with an outbreak. When there was a plague outbreak in Chinatown in San Francisco in 1900, anti-Chinese racism and xenophobia contributed to discrimination, stigmatization, and bungled health policy that caused many more deaths that could've been prevented. For all of these reasons, the World Health Organization issued guidelines a few years ago about naming diseases in a way that describes them accurately, without stigmatizing people or places or inciting unnecessary fear. Diseases are now supposed to be named after their symptoms, characteristics, and the cause of the disease if known. COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease discovered in 2019,” is an appropriate name.

SOURCE: Lifehacker

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