World Health Organisation, WHO, has urged scientists, governments and the media to follow best practices in naming new human infectious diseases to minimise unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies and people.
In a statement by the Assistant Director-General, Health Security, WHO, Dr Keiji Fukuda, in Lagos yesterday, it observed that in recent years, several new human infectious diseases had emerged.
“The use of names such as “Swine flu’’ and “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome’’ had the unintended negative impacts by stigmatising certain communities or economic sectors.
This may seem like a trivial issue to some, but disease names really do matter to the people who are directly affected.
“We have seen certain disease names provoke a backlash against members of particular religious or ethnic communities, create unjustified barriers to travel, commerce and trade and trigger needless slaughtering of food animals.
This can have serious consequences for people’s lives and livelihoods,” it said.
The world health body said that diseases were often given common names by people outside of the scientific community.
According to the statement, once disease names are established in common usage through the internet and social media, they are difficult to change, even if an inappropriate name is being used.
“Therefore, it is important that whoever first reports on a newly identified human disease uses an appropriate name that is scientifically sound and socially acceptable.
“The best practices apply to new infections, syndromes and diseases that have never been recognised or reported before in humans, that has potential public health impact.

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