National authorities, scientists and the media were urged by WHO on Friday, to discern best practices in the naming of new infectious diseases in humans.
Naming socially acceptable names which has no animal reference and not offensive-sounding to people and countries may lessen undesirable effects on countries, its residents and economies, the UN agency says.
WHO noted that with novel human infectious illnesses surfacing in recent years, some of these have slurred regions, cultures and economies. Diseases like Spanish Flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Rift Valley fever are some examples of labels that needs to be avoided for these diseases mention specific locations.
WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security, Keiji Fukuda, said that this may seem a trivial issue, but the names of diseases matters to those who are in direct impact. Fukuda said some names of diseases have incited repercussion to members of ethnic and religious communities and has also affected trade, commerce and travel. It has also led to the unwelcome slaughter of animals which affected livelihoods and lives of some individuals.
WHO said once established in common use, it is difficult to change the name of a disease so it is essential that the person who first reports on a new disease should take into consideration not only a scientific sounding name but socially acceptable as well.
Some best practices for naming fresh infections, syndromes and diseases are the use of generic descriptive terms based on the disease’s symptoms, like neurologic syndrome or water diarrhea. Use of specific descriptive lingos like, juvenile, progressive, severe and winter could offer info on who the ailment affects, the severity, seasonality and its manifestations is also endorsed. If known, the disease pathogen, may be included in the name of the disease, for example, salmonella or influenza virus.
Besides the use of geographic locations, the use of people’s names is also desisted as the case of Chagas disease or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Food and animal species such as the case of the monkey pox should be refrained. And lastly, the usage of terms which raises pointless fear like fatal, unknown or epidemic is also discouraged.
WHO said, “The new best practices do not replace the existing ICD system, but rather provide an interim solution prior to the assignment of a final ICD disease name.”