A post on social media claimed that the name of the disease caused by the new coronavirus, COVID-19, was actually an acronym that referenced it began in China. The claim asserted that the number 19 was chosen because of the number of viruses to come out of China.
The post doesn’t get the acronym or the reason for the number right.
What does “COVID-19” stand for?
The World Health Organization, who named the disease, says it stands for “coronavirus disease 2019.”
WHAT WE FOUND
The WHO broke down the name of both the disease and the virus itself. The disease is named COVID-19, short for coronavirus disease, and the virus is named SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. The "19" in COVID-19 stands for the year the virus was first detected: 2019.
The announcement of the disease’s new name came on February 11. When the WHO Director-General gave remarks on that day, he said, “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.”
So not only does the post get the acronym wrong, it does so in a way contrary to how the WHO actually named it.
The WHO says they are responsible for naming diseases and the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses is responsible for naming viruses. The ICTV explained the classification and naming of the virus near the beginning of March.
The WHO says they avoid reference to the name of the virus because they don’t want it to be confused with the SARS virus that caused an outbreak in 2003. They note, “While related, the two viruses are different.”