Behind the name: Why is pandemic called coronavirus, COVID-19?

People wearing face masks walk at a down town street in Hong Kong Monday, March 23, 2020. (AP)

Coronavirus is the official term for members of a group of viruses known to cause respiratory diseases in humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). But as the latest coronavirus, known as COVID-19, sweeps the world in a global pandemic and becomes one of the most searched terms online, many are asking: Where does the name come from?

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

Coronaviruses are composed of genetic material surrounded by a round envelope that has protein spikes on the outside that resemble the spikes on a crown, the metal headgear worn by many monarchs across the world, WHO explained in a video. “Crown” in Latin is “corona,” hence the name coronavirus.

This electron microscope image made available by the US National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. (AP)

This electron microscope image made available by the US National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. (AP)


Scientists named the new coronavirus COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) in reference to the year it first emerged. The virus causes the disease severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2, referring to the symptoms of the disease and the virus that spreads it.

Coronavirus family: SARS, MERS

Not many people were familiar with the term “coronavirus” before this latest outbreak. This led people to think disinfectant manufacturers, such as Lysol and others, knew of the outbreak before it happened because coronavirus is listed on the product labels.


The coronavirus family also includes other coronaviruses such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respirator Syndrome (SARS). This explains why some disinfectants are labeled to work against coronaviruses.

COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China in a group of people with pneumonia, according to WHO. They were associated with a seafood and live animal market, known as a “wet market.”

The outbreak has infected over 360,000 people worldwide and killed 15,488 as of Tuesday. Of those infected, 100,000 have recovered so far.

WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11.

COVID-19 coronavirus symptoms

WHO lists fever, tiredness and a dry cough as the most common symptoms of the new coronavirus. Some others may experience aches and pains, nasal congestions, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

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Last Update: Saturday, 18 April 2020 KSA 06:58 - GMT 03:58
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