Naming Diseases After One’s Enemies

This is an interesting graphic showing the initial names giving to syphilis in various jurisdictions.
Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 1.57.28 PM.png

The WHO recently came out against naming diseases after people, foods, animals, occupations, or places. However, this decision has raised some new concerns. According to Science:

Many scientists agree that disease names can be problematic, but they aren’t sure the new rulebook is necessarily an improvement. “It will certainly lead to boring names and a lot of confusion,” predicts Linfa Wang, an expert on emerging infectious diseases at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong. “You should not take political correctness so far that in the end no one is able to distinguish these diseases,” says Christian Drosten, a virologist at the University of Bonn, Germany.

Naming diseases has long been a fraught process. Badly chosen names can stigmatize people, as did gay-related immune deficiency, an early name for AIDS. They can also lead to confusion and hurt tourism and trade. The so-called swine flu, for instance, is not transmitted by pigs, but some countries still banned pork imports or slaughtered pigs after a 2009 outbreak. More recently, some Arab countries were unhappy that a new disease caused by a coronavirus was dubbed Middle East respiratory syndrome.

 

Advertisements