Okay, we got the word. Don’t attach place names to SARS-CoV-2 variants—they can be stigmatizing and even misleading.
But people will have a hard time separating B.1.1.7 from B.1.351. So, we need your help: What’s a better alternative?What do you think? Let us know by tagging us on Twitter @ghn_news, or emailing awinny1 [at] jhu.edu (subject: Hey%20Annalies%2C%20here%27s%20what%20I%20think) (Annalies).
We put the question to our readers, and they had quite a few ideas!
Here’s what they suggested:
Why not name variants like we do for hurricanes? First names, please. Let’s use male names, for a change, so we don’t attribute another disaster to the female persuasion (Mother Earth). Go alphabetically…
Variant …Alfred, Boris, Charles, David, Eugene, Frank, Gaston, Harold, Isaiah,Jacob, Kaleb, Lewis, Mark, Nathan, Omar, Peter, Quentin, Robert, Samuel, Thomas, Ulysses, Victor, Winston, Xander.
Then, recycle the alphabet using names from around the world like Ahmed, Boubakar, Chaka, Daouda….
—Edina Butler, RN, MPH
A few ideas:
- Could we use an approach similar to naming hurricanes? Of course that could stigmatize people with those names. But if unusual or archaic names were selected these could be avoided.
- Use astronomical conventions. The discoverer gets to name the variant provided it does not name the country.
- Name the variant based on a particular characteristic….”super spike 1” etc.
Give virus variants proper names, as we do with the hurricanes! I believe scientists had already nicknamed the first two known variants as “Nelly” and “Erik.”
Because numbers and letters are hard to remember and ‘refer’ to, I suggest giving the variants names, like hurricanes and storms. The names could follow scientific example using that of a scientist or institution that found the variant, or use the system that meteorologists use (not sure what that is … ?), or just generate a list of first names, male and female, make it international to be inclusive and also not dominated by English, and then randomly select one for each variant.
OR perhaps instead of existing names (if too stigmatizing or too difficult since there are so many alphabets and languages), use nonsense names.
There must be a way to generate something like ‘consonant – vowel – consonant’ combinations that would be universally recognized and universally pronounceable, but yet simple.
—Jane Daniels, MPH, Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
For popular use, how about by date when first reported?
People can refer to the October version (or Oct 11 or include time
indicator if needed).
If reported on the same day, could also use Oct 11a and Oct 11b.
A few ideas for naming COVID variants:
-By the date they are discovered (e.g., March 1-variant)
-By what the spike protein looks like (e.g., hammer variant) – I’m not sure if this is feasible, but it came to mind after seeing a nice explainer article in NPR)
—Amit Mistry, PhD, Senior Scientist, Center for Global Health Studies, National Institutes of Health
This is a tough one. The place the variant arises from helps make decisions regarding travel…
Maybe we could do the town or city and follow UK’s lead, i.e Kent
—Tracy Evans-Gilbert, Pediatrics/Tropical Medicine/Public Health – Jamaica
Why not keep it simple. Use a simple numbering system that all languages can follow. #1 is the first variant acknowledged widely to be a potential problem for our current vaccines; #2 is the second…
Isn’t there enough drama in the world right now… really way too much? And science can be difficult to follow, intimidating for many. Keep it very simple. Let it be something we can ALL understand and follow.
—Jan Mathews, Camino, CA
Use common, one-word color names, assigned alphabetically as variants are discovered.
This would be fairly universal, in English at least. Perhaps a 4-letter abbreviation as well.
I do not recommend trying to chart them by these color hues as most are greens and blues.
Perhaps also skip those with alternate meanings, besides color (marked with X).
a aqua aqua
b blue blue
c cyan cyan
e emrl emerald x
g gren green
I ivry ivory x
j jade jade x
k khak khaki x
l lime lime x
m magn magenta
o orng orange
p pink pink
r red1 red
s scar scarlet
t tan1 tan x use teal
v viol violet x
w whit white
y yelw yellow
— David Coffin
I think the variants should be named after the military alphabet – alpha, bravo etc by order of when they emerged.
How about Covid-21a, Covid-21b etc or SARS-CoV-2-1a etc?
In terms of naming Corona virus variants, on any other type of variant, for that matter…..what about naming it by its unique characteristic, or symptomatology?
For example (and at the risk of sounding like an idiot), what about Covid-faster, or Covid-no taste, or Covid-easy spikes….etc. In other words, using language commonly associated with a variant, in social media or non-scientific magazines?
The first step is to ID SIGNIFICANT mutations: ones that affect transmissibility, severity, vaccine resistance, or perhaps even spread to other mammals. (no more than 4 categories).
Then just use a numbering system based on that as they are discovered: T1, T2 etc, and S1 S2 etc and V1 and so on.
Great Britain becomes T1, South Africa becomes V1, Brazil T2V2?
—Victor La Cerva, MD
What about something simple like:
COVID 19 var 01 and maybe some part of the date when it was identified?
COVID 19 var 02
COVID 19 var 03
COVID 19 var 04
—Randy Domina, MPH, Connecticut Department of Public Health
Name the variants by the date of discovery:
Nine twelve, the fifteen seven etc