Beth Skwarecki writing in Lifehacker:
‘…[T]he World Health Organization issued guidelines a few years ago about naming diseases in a way that describes them accurately, without stigmatizing people or places or inciting unnecessary fear. Diseases are now supposed to be named after their symptoms, characteristics, and the cause of the disease if known. COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease discovered in 2019,” is an appropriate name. Here’s what they don’t recommend:
Terms that should be avoided in disease names include geographic locations (e.g. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Spanish Flu, Rift Valley fever), people’s names (e.g. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Chagas disease), species of animal or food (e.g. swine flu, bird flu, monkey pox), cultural, population, industry or occupational references (e.g. legionnaires), and terms that incite undue fear (e.g. unknown, fatal, epidemic).
So, yes, there were diseases named that way in the past, but the public health community learned from their mistakes and we don’t do that anymore.
Anybody who is arguing, today, in 2020, for a geographical name for a disease is either naive of this history (send them this article!) or is trying to deliberately stir up xenophobic sentiments. World leaders are now blaming each other for the virus, which is silly. It’s just a virus. So let’s take it seriously and call it by its real name….’
Related: Your Racist Corona Jokes Aren’t Funny:
There’s something harmful and horrific spreading across this country, and it’s not a biological illness. It’s the idea that calling coronavirus “kung flu” is funny.
I shouldn’t have to say this. You know not to be a racist xenophobic jerk, right? Many of you reading this would, in fact, never consider making such jokes. And for this you shall be awarded one gold star and the responsibility to stare dead-eyed at your friends who say racist things and say “Wait, I don’t get it. Explain to me again why that’s funny?”
PS: The ‘Spanish Flu’ probably started in Kansas.