As new SARS-CoV-2 mutations emerge, terms like “UK variant” or “South Africa variant” have become ubiquitous.
WHO is warning against the practice not only because such terms stigmatize countries for being forthcoming about what they’ve discovered—they can also be misleading.
The 1918 Spanish flu is a classic example. There’s no hard evidence that the pandemic began in Spain; it was just the first country where the devastation was widely reported. The US and China were both hit earlier but downplayed its toll.
A Solution? WHO is working on a naming system that clearly identifies emerging variants without referring to countries.
Back to top