Whenever a new pathogen threatens the human world, scientists are quick to study it thoroughly and seize the dangers of it. It is usually scientists who come up with the names of different viruses and the diseases born by it. Many experts and scientists all over the world agree that some of the disease names can be problematic. Since many of the diseases are named after people, animals, or the place they were first observed, it can insult/offend and stigmatize certain cultures, societies, national sentiments, professional groups, and certain beings. Naming diseases has long been a fraught process. But after the havoc caused by the name of coronavirus which resulted in people insulting bats, or Chinese Markets, WHO recently, gave new guidelines or rules where it urged researchers, health officials, scientists, and journalists to use more neutral and generic names.

Diseases like Rift Valley fever, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome have left some of the countries frowning due to the specific indication of the places. Monkeypox created a fear of monkeys among people or the confusion regarding pigs causing swine-flu resulted in the slaughtering of pigs or banning pork. Inappropriate disease names can not only hurt the sentiments of people but also affect trade, tourism, and or animal welfare motives. The introduction of guidelines “For Naming of New Human Infectious Diseases” by WHO will ensure no harm is done to any community. New disease names should not include geographic locations; the names of people, occupations, animals, or food; or “terms that incite undue fear” (such as unknown, fatal, and epidemic). Instead, the names should use generic descriptions of symptoms (respiratory disease or watery diarrhea) and specific terms describing patients, epidemiology or the environment (juvenile, maternal, seasonal, summer, coastal), as well as pathogen names and arbitrary identifiers (alpha, beta, 1, 2, 3).

In choosing COVID-19 as the disease’s name, the name-givers of the WHO steered clear of connecting the outbreak to China or the town of Wuhan, where the disease was first reported. While origin sites were used to classify new viruses in the past, such a name-sake is now seen as denigrating. A clear name might also avoid the ad hoc names that appeared in the press and online, many of which connected the virus to the area, including the Wuhan virus or Wu Flu. So it is important to create rules that keep people from naming diseases inappropriately. WHO’s new guidelines will minimize the negative impact of diseases on any cultural or professional background. 

New rules for Naming Diseases