Why WHO omitted two letters of the Greek alphabet to name Omicron – CBS Baltimore

(CNN) – How to name the new coronavirus variant Omicron is causing some confusion.

Since May The World Health Organization used the letters of the Greek alphabet, to name variants of the coronavirus. Delta is the most dominant, followed by eight others – including Epsilon, Iota and Lambda – that so far has mostly failed.

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So, after a new variant with the unwieldy scientific name of B.1.1.529 was discovered last week in South Africa, observers can expect WHO to name it after the Greek letter. next on the list: Nu.

But the health authorities ignored Nu, along with the letter that followed – Xi – and instead go straight to Omicron – the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.

“Nu is too easily confused with ‘new’ and Xi is not used because that’s the common surname,” the organization explained in an emailed statement to CNN.

“And WHO best practices for naming new diseases suggest ‘avoid offending any cultural, social, national, regional, occupational or ethnic group.’ ”

Although pronounced differently, the Greek letter Xi bears a resemblance to the Chinese surname Xi – as in Chinese leader Xi Jinping – sparking speculation that may have played a role in the the WHO omitted this name.

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China has sought to distance itself from the Covid-19 pandemic and has pushed back against claims that the virus Originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Scientific names of diseases “can be difficult to say and remember, and easily misinterpreted,” WHO said in May. “As a result, people often use calling variants by the places where they are discovered, which is stigma and discrimination.”

To avoid these stigmas, WHO has avoided associating the virus with specific regions of the world. Some people believe that the use of the terms “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese Virus” to describe how Covid-19 has led to Terrorists of Asian descent.

Above its website, WHO says it has identified best practices for naming new human diseases, “with the aim of minimizing the unnecessary negative impact of disease names on trade, travel, tourism or welfare.” animal welfare.”

So that’s how this latest coronavirus variant is named Omicron.

And if newer variations appear, there will be 9 more letters in the Greek alphabet. The next one is Pi.

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