(BBC) – It has infected thousands of people, closed borders and put parts of China into lockdown. But the virus causing the outbreak of illness does not yet have a proper name.
It has been referred to as the coronavirus. But that is the name of the group of viruses it belongs to.
It has also been given the temporary title 2019-nCoV. But just saying that is a mouthful.
A group of scientists has been grappling behind closed doors to find a proper term. Now they have told the BBC they are close to announcing it.
So why has it taken so long?
“The naming of a new virus is often quite delayed and the focus until now has been on the public health response, which is understandable,” says Crystal Watson, senior scholar and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“But there are reasons the naming should be a priority.”
To try to distinguish this particular virus, scientists have been calling it the novel or new coronavirus. Coronaviruses are named for their crown-like spikes when viewed through a microscope.