"COVID Aliases: The Cryptic World of Pandemic Nicknames"covid-aliases,pandemic-nicknames,cryptic-world,covid-19,pandemic
"COVID Aliases: The Cryptic World of Pandemic Nicknames"

“COVID Aliases: The Cryptic World of Pandemic Nicknames”

3 minutes, 36 seconds Read

The Science Behind COVID-19 Variants: From Kraken to Pirola

The Need for Unofficial Nicknames

In the world of COVID-19, new variants continue to emerge, causing confusion and challenges in communication. The World Health Organization (WHO) devised a letter system to name these variants, aiming to avoid stigmatization and travel bans associated with place names. However, as the number of variants grew, the official naming system became confusing and difficult to track.

Professor Ryan Gregory, a leading expert in the field, addresses the limitations of the official naming system and the necessity for unofficial nicknames. He argues that just as common names exist in zoology and botany to simplify communication, COVID-19 variants also require familiar and accessible names. He likens the Greek letter system used by the WHO as the high-level taxonomic class, while the Pango lineages represent the Latin species names. These technical names are essential for scientific discussions, but they lack the simplicity needed for broader conversations about COVID-19 variants.

The Role of Professor Ryan Gregory and the Nicknaming Team

Professor Ryan Gregory is part of a team of scientists and citizen scientists who actively monitor the evolution of SARS-CoV-2. They analyze genetic sequences from COVID-19 testing laboratories worldwide to identify and characterize new variants. Recognizing the growing complexity of variant discussions, they began proposing unofficial nicknames in August 2022.

The team’s initial inspiration for the nicknames came from Greek mythological creatures, but they later transitioned to astronomical names in response to concerns that certain nicknames, such as “Kraken,” could cause unnecessary fear. The latest nickname, “Pirola,” represents the BA.2.86 variant and is named after an asteroid. The team’s selection of nicknames is based on the variants’ significance in terms of mutations or the likelihood of them being widely discussed.

The Benefits and Controversies of Nicknaming Variants

The introduction of unofficial nicknames for COVID-19 variants serves several purposes. Firstly, it simplifies communication and makes it more accessible to non-experts. By using familiar names like “Kraken” or “Pirola,” individuals can easily engage in discussions about specific variants without requiring a deep understanding of scientific nomenclature.

However, there are critics who argue that naming every variant may create unnecessary confusion. Professor Gregory acknowledges this concern but emphasizes that many of the variants that his team have named align with WHO-designated variants of interest or variants under monitoring. The nicknames serve as an additional tool for communication, allowing people to choose between the simplified nickname or the technical name based on their preference and understanding.

Editorial: Balancing Communication and Accuracy

The introduction of nicknames for COVID-19 variants raises important questions about the balance between simplified communication and scientific accuracy. While it is essential to ensure that information is easily understood and accessible, it is equally crucial to maintain scientific rigor and prevent the spread of misinformation.

The unofficial nicknaming of COVID-19 variants provides a practical solution to the challenges posed by the complex names generated by the official systems. However, it is crucial for both scientists and the general public to remain vigilant in using accurate and up-to-date information when discussing the variants, ensuring that the nuances and complexities of the virus are not oversimplified or misrepresented.

Advice: Navigating the Terminology

For individuals seeking to understand and engage in discussions about COVID-19 variants, it is essential to have a basic understanding of both the official and unofficial naming systems. While the official system is more precise and technical, unofficial nicknames provide a simplified way to communicate about specific variants.

When encountering discussions or news articles about COVID-19 variants, it is advisable to familiarize oneself with both the official names and the corresponding nicknames. This will enable a better understanding of the context and nuances associated with each variant. It is also important to rely on reputable sources such as the WHO and scientific publications for accurate information while being cautious of misinformation.

By navigating this terminology effectively, individuals can actively participate in informed discussions about COVID-19 variants while ensuring accuracy and clarity in their communication.


"COVID Aliases: The Cryptic World of Pandemic Nicknames"
<< photo by MEUM MARE >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.

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