Virus Names

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Why aren’t all Viruses named after the place of origin?

Many viruses and diseases seem to be named after the place of origin, but some are not.


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Recent news articles mentioning the COVID-19 from Wuhan in China, has made this a topical subject, with some people saying it is racist to call a virus after the place of origin.

BUT.. Why wasn’t this mentioned for these ones?

  • MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), from the Middle East.
  • Lyme Disease, from the town called Lyme, Connecticut, USA.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, from Rocky Mountain, USA.
  • West Nile Virus, from West Nile, Uganda. 1937
  • Ross River Fever, from Ross River, Australia.
  • Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever, from Omsk, Russia.
  • Marburg Virus Disease, from Marburg, Germany.
  • Lassa Fever, from Lassa, Nigeria.
  • St. Louis Encephalitis, from St. Louis, USA.

It seems VERY common to call a disease, or similar, after the place it originated.

Some unusual ones:

Spanish Flu, Spain. (Although this may have been so named due to the higher numbers reported in Spain, as other countries censored the total numbers at the time, due to war time reporting censorship. Spain was neutral in that war.)


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German Measles, named due to it being discovered by Germans. But also possibly (probably) because it was originally called “germane’ measles”. Germane meaning akin to or like, ie: “Something like Measles”.

Mad Cow Disease, actually called Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), resulting in Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (vCJD). Originated in the UK.


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