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WHO declines to name new pneumonia after 'China' or 'Wuhan'

Political considerations suspected as playing part in labeling of communicable disease

2019-nCoV believed to originate from seafood market in Wuhan. (Facebook photo)

2019-nCoV believed to originate from seafood market in Wuhan. (Facebook photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After the official name for the new coronavirus that originates in Wuhan, China, was revealed on Monday (Jan. 13), many international experts were surprised to find that neither of the two places were included in the title of the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) identified the Wuhan pneumonia as 2019-nCoV, contrary to widespread expectation that it would be named as the Wuhan respiratory syndrome coronavirus (WERS-CoV). The decision has sparked heated debate globally as many believe that political considerations played a role in the decision, reported Liberty Times.

Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞), deputy director general of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), however, said there is a logic behind the naming of the new communicable disease. He pointed out WHO had received complaints for including country or regional names in the title of certain diseases, such as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and H1N1, which is known as Spanish flu.

Lo emphasized that naming diseases after area names often creates misconceptions about their contamination scope. He added WHO had established an improved naming system with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), so country names would not be used for new diseases, reported UDN.

2019-nCoV is believed to have originated at a seafood market in Wuhan and has afflicted 41 people since its discovery in December. WHO said Sunday (Jan. 12) there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission and the new pneumonia appears to only be associated with exposure to Wuhan seafood market.