Monday , May 17 2021

From covid to Ebola: whence the name of the disease?

A document that says H1N1

Credit, Getty Images

Caption photos,

In recent years, experts have identified flu outbreaks in letters and numbers, but many find them difficult to remember.

When we learn about the onset of a new disease – as has recently happened with covid-19, we try to learn more about the causes, symptoms and how we can prevent it.

Rarely do we stop to look at the name of a disease or why they chose to name it a certain way.

However, the names of the diseases carry enormous political, economic and social weight.

“When a new life-threatening threat arises, the first and most pressing concern is to give it a name,” says science journalist Laura Spinney in her book. Pale Rider: The Spanish flu in 1918 and how it changed the world (“Cavaleiro Pálido: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World,” in free translation).

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