[Ads-l] Disease names and geography

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon May 3 22:11:21 UTC 2021

Does anyone actually name diseases after "enemies."?

My father is a good friend and former teacher of someone who is now a 
renowned epidemiologist (not Fauci) who gets interviewed on TV and 
writes op-eds that get published in well known newspapers and magazines. 
  He cornered me at a party once and told me to go home and hug my family 
and friends and say my good-byes prospectively because he expected a 
significant portion of the population to die in some particularly 
ominous upcoming flu season - which, of course never happened, so I 
don't listen to his advice much anymore.

Years ago at another party (or was it the same one? can't recall) he 
explained to me that nearly every seasonal virus gets its start in 
China, due to the living, farming and market conditions that place 
humans, pigs and birds in close proximity to one another in large 
numbers at high density.

That explains why the "Asian flu" "Hong Kong flu" "Russian flu" and 
"bird flu" outbreaks all started in China.  "Russia" may be a misnomer,  
but that is where the outbreak was first widely reported - reporting out 
of China at the time was sketchy, and probably censored.  I believe the 
"Asian flu" is also believed to have started in China, but they weren't 
reporting things to the WHO back in the '50s, so the name was never 
associated with it.  But were we "enemies" with Asia, in general, at the 

The Spanish flu of 1918 is likely a misnomer as well, but were the 
Spanish our "enemies" at the time - and other countries variously named 
that flue "Brazilian flu," "German flu" or other regional name, based on 
what place people in those locations associated with the origin of the 
flu based on reporting or awareness in their various areas.

The Hong Kong flu is probably a misnomer, as it likely started in 
mainland China, but was first reported from Hong Kong.  But were we 
"enemies" with Hong Kong at the time?

Is there an outcry that the "Brazilian" variant of Covid is so-named, or 
is it just accepted because that's where it was first identified, and 
from which it apparently spread? Are we enemies with Brazil?  And isn't 
there a New York variant on the loose now? Are we "enemies" with New 
York?  I dunno - seems like whether geo-naming is good or bad is one 
question, but the notion that we are naming diseases after "enemies" 
seems far-fetched.  And even when the names might be shown to be 
inaccurate later, doesn't necessarily make the original naming 
convention "wrong."

------ Original Message ------
From: "Dan Goncharoff" <thegonch at gmail.com>
To: ADS-L at listserv.uga.edu
Sent: 5/1/2021 3:46:55 PM
Subject: Re: Disease names and geography

>---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject:      Re: Disease names and geography
>Isn't the problem the human tendency to name diseases after enemies?
>On Sat, May 1, 2021, 4:02 PM Mark Mandel <markamandel at gmail.com> wrote:
>>  It's a good idea socially -- i.e., *Don't Encourage Prejudice and Hatred*
>>  -- but geographical names are a heck of a lot easier for most people to
>>  remember than arbitrary strings of letters and digits.
>>  MAM
>>  On Sat, May 1, 2021, 3:13 PM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
>>  wrote:
>>  > The World Health Organization has suggested that disease names should
>>  > not include geographical markers. (See the citation and excerpt at the
>>  > end of this message.) Hence, the name of the infectious disease
>>  > causing the current pandemic deliberately did not include "Wuhan",
>>  > "China", or "Asian". Instead, the name Covid-19 was constructed.
>>  >
>>  > Interestingly, the major news organizations are not following this
>>  > advice when reporting about variants of Covid-19. For example, the
>>  > names "UK variant" and "South African variant" are employed in news
>>  > reports from CNN and BBC.
>>  >
>>  > Perhaps this will change over time.
>>  >
>>  > Here is a report from CNN last month. The title prominently features
>>  > the name "UK variant". The accompanying video shows the Director of
>>  > the CDC Rochelle Walensky, and she uses the term "B117 variant", but
>>  > the journalists mention "UK variant".
>>  >
>>  > Website: CNN
>>  > Title: UK variant is now the dominant coronavirus strain in the US,
>>  > says CDC chief
>>  > Author:  Betsy KIein (CNN)
>>  > Date: April 7, 2021
>>  >
>>  >
>>  https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/07/us/uk-variant-dominant-coronavirus-strain/index.html
>>  >
>>  > [Begin excerpt of transcribed text]
>>  > Journalist: The CDC director just moments ago at the White House
>>  > briefing said that the UK variant is now the most prevalent strain in
>>  > the Unites States. Listen to this.
>>  > Rochelle Walensky: The B117 variant is now the most common lineage
>>  > circulating in the United States.
>>  > [End excerpt]
>>  >
>>  > Website: BBC
>>  > Title: Covid: Fears of 'impending doom' in Pakistan
>>  > Author: Abid Hussain
>>  > Date: April 30, 2021
>>  > https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-56888541
>>  >
>>  > [Begin excerpt]
>>  > One of the key drivers which led Pakistan to this stage was the
>>  > arrival of the UK variant, as confirmed by Umar during second week of
>>  > March. He later declared it to be more dangerous than the original
>>  > strain.
>>  > But the variant has collided with something else: apathy.
>>  > [End excerpt]
>>  >
>>  > Website: BBC
>>  > Title: Moderna vaccine appears to work against variants
>>  > Author: Michelle Roberts
>>  > Date: January 25, 2021
>>  > https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55797312
>>  >
>>  > [Begin excerpt]
>>  > Blood samples exposed to the new variants appeared to have sufficient
>>  > antibodies to achieve this neutralising effect, although it was not as
>>  > strong for the South Africa variant as for the UK one.
>>  > [End excerpt]
>>  >
>>  > Website: WHO.int
>>  > Title: World Health Organization Best Practices for the Naming of New
>>  > Human Infectious Diseases
>>  > Date: May 2015
>>  >
>>  >
>>  https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/163636/WHO_HSE_FOS_15.1_eng.pdf
>>  >
>>  > [Begin excerpt]
>>  > Disease names may NOT include:
>>  > Geographic locations: Cities, countries, regions, continents
>>  >
>>  > Examples to be avoided:
>>  > Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Spanish Flu, Rift Valley fever, Lyme
>>  > disease, Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever, Japanese encephalitis
>>  > [End excerpt]
>>  >
>>  > ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>  >
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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