How To Name A Disease (Like COVID-19)

How To Name A Disease (Like COVID-19)

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We’ve changed – and standardized – the way diseases get named because the old way was often stigmatizing and confusing.

Thanks also to our Patreon patrons and our YouTube members.
To learn more, start your googling with these keywords:
Coronaviruses (CoV): a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as COVID-19.
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): an infectious disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus that was discovered in 2019 and named a pandemic in 2020.
2009 H1N1 Flu: a pandemic disease that emerged in 2009 caused by the H1N1)pdm09 virus, which was different from any other influenza strain circulating at the time.
World Health Organization (WHO): an organization that directs and coordinates international health within the United Nations system.
1918 Flu: often referred to as the “Spanish flu,” the 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history and caused by an H1N1 virus. There are competing theories for its place of origin, but public health experts agree it did not actually originate in Spain.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It was first named “gay-related immunodeficiency disease (GRID),” despite the fact anyone, regardless of sexuality, is susceptible.
Stigma: a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.
Pandemic: the worldwide spread of a new disease.
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Credits (and Twitter handles):
Video Writer and Narrator: Julián Gustavo Gómez (@thejuliangomez)
Script Editor: Kate Yoshida and David Goldenberg
Video Illustrator and Director: Ever Salazar (@eversalazar)
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Alex Reich, Peter Reich, Sarah Berman, Arcadi Garcia Rius
Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:



Ballantyne, C. “Will Egypt’s plans to kill pigs protect it from swine—sorry, H1N1 flu.” Sci Am News Blog (2009).

World Health Organization. “World now at the start of 2009 influenza pandemic.” (2009).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The 2009 H1N1 pandemic: summary highlights, April 2009-April 2010.” Official Online Article Published by the Centers for Disease Control 4 (2010).

Selyukh, A. “Pork industry still reeling from swine flu.” ABC News (2009).

World Health Organization. “Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it” (2020).

World Health Organization. “World Health Organization Best Practices for the Naming of New Human Infectious Diseases” (2015).

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