In a recent interview, the Chief Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme--Dr. Michael Ryan--said that

the pandemic of influenza in 2009 originated in North America and we didn't call it the North American flu so it's very important that we have the same approach when it comes to other viruses

So that got me wondering why does MERS, which is a relatively recent term too, include a geographical designator (M = Middle East). Basically, who was responsible for coining "MERS" as a term (and were there any objections to this term)?

1 Answer 1


The Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses has published a proposed new designation for the novel coronavirus, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).1

Given the experience in previous international public health events, WHO generally prefers that virus names do not refer to the region or place of the initial detection of the virus. This approach aims at minimizing unnecessary geographical discrimination that could be based on coincidental detection rather than on the true area of emergence of a virus.

WHO did not convene a group to discuss the naming of this virus. The proposed name - MERS-CoV - represents a consensus that is acceptable to WHO. It was built on consultations with a large group of scientists.

https://www.who.int › diseasePDF Naming of the Novel Coronavirus

  • I suppose the WHO ducked behind the fact that it's an abbreviation... Still I'd be curious to know who came up with the actual name. (Was it the ICTV?) Mar 22, 2020 at 11:08

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