Coronavirus and the term COVID-19 have dominated headlines the world over – but what does the term actually stand for? Business Leader explains.
What are ‘coronaviruses’?
Coronaviruses are a group of related viruses that cause respiratory tract infections. These can be mild, such as some cases of the common cold, and others that can be lethal, such as SARS, MERS, and currently – COVID-19.
Overall, there are seven varieties of the virus:
- 229E (alpha coronavirus)
- NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
- OC43 (beta coronavirus)
- HKU1 (beta coronavirus)
- MERS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS)
- SARS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS)
- SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19)
Currently, there are no vaccines or medicines that can prevent or treat human coronavirus infections.
It is spread through human interaction – coughing, sneezing and being in close proximity to someone infected with the virus.
COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on the UK and the wider world, with people encouraged to distance themselves from family, friends and public venues as much as possible in order to contain the outbreak.
Most coronaviruses are actually relatively harmless to humans, and only cause mild flu symptoms. However, COVID-19 has around a 3% mortality rate across the world so far.
What does COVID-19 stand for?
COVID-19 simply stands for ‘Corona Virus Disease 2019’. The name was chosen by the World Health Organisation (WHO), however, before it was officially named scientists in Asia were calling the coronavirus ‘2019-nCoV’.
This name is due to the year the virus was discovered, and that it is a ‘novel’ coronavirus.
Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, explained: “We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease.
“Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatising. It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.”