SARS-CoV-2: What’s in a Name?
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The name of the new coronavirus that first appeared in China has been evolving from "Wuhan virus" to "novel coronavirus-2019" to "COVID-19 virus," and now to its official designation: SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). But where did the final name come from, how does such a name become official, and who makes it so?

The Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) named the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 based upon its genetic relationship to the original SARS-CoV that caused an outbreak of the disease in 2002—2003.

Many of the topmost areas of classification are based on whether the viruses are DNA or RNA, single or double-stranded, and have a simple protein shell or a complex lipoprotein envelope or type of diseases they cause, the later exemplified in the SARS designation for this virus. The World Health Organization currently is not using the official scientific name of the virus, but rather is merely labelling it with regard to the disease: COVID-19, which simply refers to coronavirus disease 2019.WHO is following a modern standard by which disease names avoid inflammatory connotations with people and places. The currently named "WuFlu," which made an appearance early in the new outbreak is symbolic of a sudden wave of anti-Asian, and specifically Chinese, prejudice.

However, although SARS-CoV-2 as a name avoids such problems, different considerations led the WHO to reject it in its discussions, determining that its use ties it to the much more deadly SARS-CoV-1 virus in the public mind, risking greater fear and panic, especially in Asia, where SARS-CoV-1 had the biggest impact.
The genomic sequences are provided by the scientific community are all being organized under the SARS-CoV-2 name and thus are cementing that moniker as the only acceptable scientific one.

Whether the rest of world universally adopts SARS-CoV-2 as a name is still in question considering if the outbreak spreads significantly beyond its current limits, the general public might need the more familiar-sounding label.

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