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Novel Coronavirus must not be called "Wuhan Virus"

2020-05-08

As the international community work together to control COVID-19, some people are sticking with the outdated script that the novel coronavirus is a "Wuhan virus" or "China virus", as the first cases were reported in China's Wuhan. This has no scientific or factual basis and is extremely irresponsible.

There is no clear scientific conclusion as to the exact source of the novel coronavirus. Wuhan was the first place to report cases of COVID-19 but it is not necessarily the source of the novel coronavirus. According to media reports, Michael Melham, mayor of Belleville, New Jersey, USA said on 30 April that he had tested positive for antibodies related to the virus, believing that he was infected with the novel coronavirus in November last year. (https://news.yahoo.com/belleville-mayor-coronavirus-antibodies-heres-194441834.html). On 3 May, Professor Yves Cohen, head of resuscitation at the Avicenne and Jean Verdier hospitals in Paris, France said that he had retested the retained samples from pneumonia patients admitted previously and found the test result of a French man admitted on 27 December last year to be positive. World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier said on 5 May that it is also possible there are more early cases to be found, and the above-mentioned French case provides a new and clearer picture of the outbreak. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-france-retests/frances-early-covid-19-case-may-hold-clues-to-pandemics-start-idUSKBN22H15R).

Historically, the place where a virus is first reported has not necessarily been where it originated. For example, the first HIV/AIDS cases were reported in the US, but HIV may have originated in West Africa. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS). The Marburg virus was first discovered in Marburg, Hesse, Germany, but it most likely originated in Uganda. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marburg_virus).

In order to avoid stigmatization, WHO issued best practice for the naming of new human infectious diseases in 2015, noting that disease names may not include geographic locations, cities, countries, people's names or animal names and terms that incite undue fear. (https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/163636/WHO_HSE_FOS_15.1_eng.pdf). On 11 February, 2020, the novel coronavirus was officially named SARS-CoV-2. On 7 April, an editorial in Nature, a leading scientific journal, called for an immediate end to the coronavirus stigma and the irresponsible practice of linking viruses and viral diseases to specific locations. (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01009-0).

The origin of the novel coronavirus is a scientific issue that should be addressed by scientists and medical experts. Any words and actions that "politicize" the pandemic and "stigmatize" China will only deepen prejudice, incite confrontation, and undermine international cooperation in pandemic prevention.

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