The WHO goes to the Greek alphabet to look for names of virus variants

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COVID-19 variants should be known by letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid stigmatizing nations where they were first detected, the World Health Organization announced Monday.

The new system is applied to the variants of concern, of which there are four in circulation, the most worrying, and the variants of second level interest are monitored.

“They will not replace existing scientific names, but are intended to aid public discussion,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical director of COVID-19.

Under the new system, the worrying variants take the following names: the so-called British variant B.1.1.7 so far converted to Alpha; the B.1.351 first discovered in South Africa becomes beta, while the Brazilian P.1 becomes Gamma.

The so-called Indian variant B.1.617 is divided into sub-lineages, of which the worrying variant B.1.617.2 becomes Delta.

The variant of interest B.1.617.1 is called Kappa.

In addition to these names, there are two other scientific names in use for each mutation, while different geographical names have been used to describe the same variant.

For example, in Britain, what other countries have referred to as the British variant is often called the Kent variant, the county in south-east England where it was first discovered.

Lineage names such as B.1.1.7.2 will still be used in scientific circles, for the mutation information that their name conveys.

“Stigmatizing and discriminatory”

“While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and remember and are prone to misinformation,” the WHO said in a statement.

“As a result, people often resort to call variants by the places where it is detected, which is stigmatizing and discriminatory.

“To prevent this and simplify public communications, WHO encourages national authorities, and others, to adopt these new labels. “

Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a hate crime law designed to protect Asian Americans who have suffered an increase in attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. anti-extremist groups say the number of hate attacks and crimes against Asian Americans has exploded since the crisis began.

They blamed some of the blame on former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “virus of China.”

The WHO has been trying for several months to draw up a new simplified nomenclature for variants.

The Greek alphabet contains 24 letters, but there is still no plan on where to go next if they run out.

Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta and Iota have already been attributed to variants of interest.


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Citation: WHO changes to Greek alphabet for virus variant names (2021, May 31) retrieved June 1, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-05-greek-alphabet -virus-variant.html

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