When does the "Chinese Coronavirus" become the "American Coronavirus?"

The other day our president said:

Do not turn this political or the thread dies

It’s an interesting question about evolution and speciation. For example, here is an updated phylogeny where the US version is in red:

Source: https://nextstrain.org/ncov

When does it make sense to call what is affecting our population the American Coronavirus? Or does it make more sense to just drop the prefix and go for COVID-19?


Interesting to see how quickly it is mutating. Hopefully, some of these strains will,be a lot less severe in their impact. Perhaps some of the lower regional death rates may be due to that or may just be due to increased testing and discovery of mild cases.
That is perhaps just hopeful thinking, but interested in hearing what the experts think.

It does seem like Covid-19 is catching on, literally as well in verbal usage, but still a little bulky, so suspect will shorten to just plain Covid, or maybe C-19.


I thought that was the name of the sickness it causes, not the name of the virus. The virus is SARS-CoV-2. Kind of like AIDS/HIV.


That could happen, although I don’t think there’s any strong selective pressure for it, nor any obvious evidence that it has happened. Keep in mind that the Spanish flu seems to have mutated to become much more virulent during 1918, so that’s also a possibility.

I’m not sure which regional rates you mean. Generally, you have to account for the fact that this virus can take several weeks to kill people, so you can’t compare current deaths with current infections if the number infected is increasing.


Maybe you can clarify something for me. I was always a bit puzzled at the ending of “Andromeda Strain”–it seemed to suddenly become less virulent. Whereas smallpox and the bubonic plague remained quite lethal for years, the Andromeda strain mutated to become benign within what I recall as a few weeks. Was there something I missed in that book in my memory as far as a reliable mechanism?

I know that most successful parasites or communicable diseases can’t be too lethal; otherwise they don’t persist. However, I’m not clear here.


It’s been a few decades since I read the book, but from what I recall the ending doesn’t make a lot of biological sense. Any mutation occurs in a single copy of the virus – the more pathogenic version will still be around and able to infect people.


Germany and South Korea seem to be outliers at present, but as you state, things may well change as time progresses.

China outside Hubei Province has a reported case fatality rate of 0.9% so far, while South Korea’s has been creeping up from 0.5% to 1.1% as of today. Germany’s big caseload started too recently to provide any kind of estimate. Obviously, the reported rate will depend on how widely testing has been done (to pick up those with mild or no symptoms), as well as on the characteristics of the population.

Nowadays, the preferred term for the “Spanish flu” is the “1918 flu.” Not to pick nits or anything.

Point taken

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Here are four links related to the naming of infectious diseases and COVID-19 in particular:

The General Director of the WHO gave guidance on how to refer to the coronavirus on February 11th:

The AP Style Book gives current guidance on how to refer to the coronavirus:

The WHO has a best practices policy for naming infectious diseases: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/163636/WHO_HSE_FOS_15.1_eng.pdf

A Science article Naming diseases: First do no harm from 2015

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While there are several tests out, I have not seen anything about how good the tests themselves are at detecting or excluding the disease. Any idea as to how many false positives and false negatives? Sensitivity and specificity? I suspect due to the nature of the test, false positives would be low, but false negatives higher as a lot can go wrong with collection , transport and such, but have not seen any quantification.

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AP style is that Stylebook is one word. Sorry. Can’t help myself. I practically had that whole thing memorized back in the day. Back to the subject …

Maybe I’m a dumb, but it took several weeks for me to realize that the -19 part of COVID-19 referred to 2019. I kept thinking it was the 19th coronavirus discovered or something. :man_facepalming:


The virus seems to be disappearing in Asia and it looks more like a European problem now.

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