Skip to main content

Novel Coronavirus Officially Named

February 12, 2020

The 2019 novel coronavirus, which until this time has been referred to as 2019-nCoV, has been officially named.

“Under agreed guidelines between WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 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,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, during a press conference held by the WHO Director General on February 11, 2020.1

“Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing. It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.”

For this reason, the disease has officially been named COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 19).  

Also on February 11, 2020, the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses announced that they have officially designated the 2019-nCoV virus as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).2

“The spectrum of clinical manifestations associated with SARS-CoV-2 infections in humans remains to be determined. The independent zoonotic transmission of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 highlights the need for studying the entire (virus) species to complement research focused on individual pathogenic viruses of immediate significance. This research will improve our understanding of virus-host interactions in an ever-changing environment and enhance our preparedness for future outbreaks,” they wrote.

As of February 10, 2020, 13 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the US. A total of 42,708 confirmed cases have been reported in China, with 1017 deaths, and 393 cases have been reported outside of China.

“The first vaccine could be ready in 18 months, so we have to do everything today using the available weapons to fight this virus, while preparing for the long-term,” said Dr Ghebreyesus during the press conference.

—Michael Potts


  1. WHO Director-General's remarks at the media briefing on 2019-nCoV on 11 February 2020 Published February 11, 2020. Accessed February 12, 2020.
  2. Gorbalenya AE. Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus – The species and its viruses, a statement of the Coronavirus Study Group [published online February 11, 2020]. BioRxiv. Accessed February 12, 2020.
Back to Top