The coronavirus causing a deadly outbreak in China has been named ‘COVID-19‘ by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the global body, announced the new name at a conference in Geneva this afternoon.

It comes almost six weeks after the virus was first identified in the city of Wuhan, China, in late December.

Since then it has infected more than 43,000 people and killed 1,018.

The virus, which has been dubbed various things from just coronavirus to Wuhan coronavirus, Chinese coronavirus or even snake flu, needs its own name because it is just one type of coronavirus.

The word refers to a group of viruses which contains the ones which cause the illnesses SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

Coronaviruses are so named because their structure has jagged edges which look like a royal crown – corona is crown in Latin.

(Pictured, an illustration of the COVID-19 virus released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, announced the name of the virus at a conference in Geneva today.

A name had been expected since scientists at the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) last week announced they had decided on one.

The ICTV team had submitted the name for approval by global authorities last week – it has not been confirmed that their name is the one just announced.

The World Health Organization has an international set of rules which scientists must follow when proposing new names for a virus.

They must not contain references to certain places in the world, communities, human names or animals because they may cause a backlash.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is listed as a bad example, as well as Spanish Flu, Lyme disease, Japanese encephalitis, swine flu, bird flu and monkeypox.

Other words to avoid are scary ones such as ‘unknown’, ‘death’, ‘fatal’ and ‘epidemic’.


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