How do Viruses get their Names?

by Sai Raju
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Disease are named by World Health Organization to permit discussion on disease avoidance, spread, transmissibility, severity and treatment

Viruses are termed by ICTV based on their genetic arrangement to ease the development of diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines.


  • Initially called as ‘2019 novel coronavirus’. The Virus is accountable for COVID-19 was lastly named ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)’ by the ICTV as it is heritably related to coronavirus accountable for SARS outburst in 2003.
  • The disease initiated by SARS-CoV-2 is called as the coronavirus disease or COVID-19.


  • The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus or MERS-CoV is novel coronavirus triggering a viral respiratory disease, initially identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
  • As per WHO, studies indicate that humans are ill with the virus through direct or indirect communication with sick dromedary camels.

Ebola Virus:

  • According to WHO, the Ebola virus disease initially appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbursts. 
  • One of them occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in a village near the Ebola River, from which the illness takes its name.
  • Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are believed to be the natural Ebola virus hosts.


  • H1N1 is a type of influenza A virus which is divided into subtypes based on 2 proteins on the virus surface: hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N).
  • Swine flu is a respiratory illness of pigs triggered by type A influenza viruses which on being spotted in humans are called ’variant viruses’  such as the H1N1v.

NIipah Virus:

  • According to CDC, the name of the virus coined from Sungai Nipah, a village in the Malaysian Peninsula, where pig farmers became sick with encephalitis during an outburst in 1999.
  • The virus can spread to humans from animals like bats or pigs.
  • And in May 2018,  a Nipah virus disease (NiV) outburst was reported from 2 districts in Kerala.

Bird Flu:

  • H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes an communicable respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza or bird flu.
  • Avian influenza viruses usually socialize among birds and infections in humans have been related with direct or indirect contact with infected birds.


  • The Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is recognized to cause AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) in humans and has led to more than 32 million deaths so far, According to WHO estimates.
  • The virus gradually makes patients immune-deficient, by affecting the body’s immune system and weakening their defense systems against infections and some types of cancer.

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