The WHO is offering advise to the media and scientists on giving names to diseases.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Spanish Flue are examples of the types of names the WHO suggests to avoid because they mention specific locations.
The WHO recommends against names which may incite fear, such as those including people’s names (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), or names that refer to specific occupations (Legionnaires’ disease).
Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director general for health security at the WHO said “This may seem like a trivial issue to some, but disease names really do matter to the people who are directly affected.”
According to Dr. Fukuda, there has been backlash against members of certain religious and/or ethnic communities due to some disease names. There have also been barriers to travel, commerce, and trade, and in some cases animals were slaughtered needlessly due to fear.
The WHO also tweeted on May 8 saying it is “Important to minimize unnecessary negative effects on nations economies and people when naming diseases.”