Scientific names for the variants of diseases and illnesses can be complicated to say and difficult to remember, so people often fall back on distinguishing between variants based on where they were detected.
This year especially, the world has seen how identifying diseases based on certain regions can result in dangerous and even fatal interactions. Anti-Asian hate crimes are still on the rise in direct response to the associations between Covid and China, as the Chinese city of Wuhan is the location of the virus’s first outbreak.
For this reason, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that instead of naming variants based on where they were first discovered, Greek letters will be employed to refer to distinct variants.
So far, there are four variants of concern that are known to the public as the UK, South Africa, Brazil, and India variants. In the wise words of WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, “No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants,” and so the letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta will now be used to refer to each of these variants respectively.
Existing scientific names that involve numbers, punctuation points, and Roman letters will continue to be used because they convey important information to be used in research and medical sciences. The WHO hopes that the neutralization of the new names of Covid-19 variants will prevent the public from latching on to certain misinformed ideas about where variants are first discovered.