Monday, February 18, 2013

WHO: Please Don’t Call It `SARS-Like’


Coronavirus – Credit CDC PHIL


# 6947


Today the World Health Organization is taking pains to remind bloggers, journalists, and other media outlets that the novel coronavirus (NCoV) is not SARS, and should not be referred to as `SARS-Like’.


Since early last fall I’ve made a concerted effort not to use the term, but I have an advantage that the `popular press’ does not. 


My readers, by and large, already have a background in, or a pretty good understanding of, infectious diseases.


Granted, NCoV is a coronavirus - as was the SARS virus of 2003 - but it is genetically quite different.  It has not shown the same symptomology, or transmission traits, that we saw with SARS. 


For that matter, about 1/3rd of all `common colds’ are caused by various coronaviruses as well.


So being in the same family actually tells us very little about the traits of a virus. 


A good example are the Bunyaviridae family of viruses that cause such dreaded diseases as Hantavirus and Rift Valley Fever. It also includes a genus (Tospovirus) that only infects plants. 


Yes, Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus is a Bunyavirus.

Who Knew?



So today the word is going out from the WHO on Twitter, asking:


Please note: this virus is from the coronavirus family but does not behave like SARS: it is not "SARS-like". Thank you. -  @HaertlG


Genetically, in ease of transmission and in number of patients, SARS and novel coronavirus are quite different #NCoV - @WHO


The new coronavirus is not SARS. It does not behave like SARS and is genetically not SARS #NCoV - @WHO 



The future of NCoV is far from knowable.  Someday, it could be viewed in the same class as SARS.  But for now, it isn’t, and with luck it never will be.


Old habits are hard to break, after all we still see the term `swine flu’ used extensively in the media.  Still, I would hope the NCoV name gains traction in the press.


In a world filled with a growing list of new and emerging viral discoveries, NCoV is not only more precise, it is far less hyperbolic as well.

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