February 5, 2020

Naming the 2019 Coronavirus

The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) is concerned with the designation and naming of virus taxa (i.e. species, genus, family, etc.) rather than the designation of virus common names or disease names. For an outbreak of a new viral disease, there are three names to be decided: the disease, the virus and the species. The World Health Organization (WHO) is responsible for the first, expert virologists for the second, the ICTV for the third.

As experts on coronaviruses, the ICTV Coronaviridae Study Group is currently studying the classification (taxonomy) of the new virus. And given that they are experts on this family of viruses, they are also contributing their expertise to the naming of the virus.

The disease name (which may be different from the virus name) will be designated by a panel appointed by the WHO. The WHO provides clear guidelines for naming of new human diseases:
"WHO issues best practices for naming new human infectious diseases"
"WHO Best Practices for the Naming of New Human Infectious Diseases"

The following article may also be of interest:
"Naming diseases: First do no harm"