Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Greek Nomenclature for Covid Variants

The World Health Organization announced easy-to-say names for Covid variants – they will be known by letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid misreporting and stigmatizing nations where they were first detected. 

Sure, official strain names already existed, but they are highly technical and media invariably used vague and sensational terms such as "British variant" and “Indian variant” to describe them instead. 

The new naming system applies to “variants of concern” – the most troubling of which four are in circulation: 

  • Covid Alpha: first documented in UK 
  • Covid Beta: first documented in South Africa 
  • Covid Gamma: first documented in Brazil 
  • Covid Delta: first documented in India 

WHO’s technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove (right) tweeted: “The labels don’t replace existing scientific names, which convey important scientific information and will continue to be used in research”. 

Historically, viruses have often been associated with the locations from which they are thought to have emerged such as Ebola which is named after the eponymous Congolese river. 

But this can be damaging for the places and often inaccurate such as with the so-called “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918 whose origins are unknown.

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