Here's the origin of coronavirus or COVID-19 and why you really shouldn't call it that other name

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- What's in a name? Previous pandemics and outbreaks have taken on the names of places, but doing so has consequences and naming novel coronavirus the "Chinese Virus" isn't just wrong, it also jeopardizes the safety of Asians here in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the globe.

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The first case of novel coronavirus was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Those early cases have been linked to a live animal market in Wuhan and has been since spreading person to person. The virus has since spread around the globe. First showing up in the United States on January 2, 2020, in Snohomish County, Washington.

"It is COVID-19 and SARS Cov2," said Dr. Alok Patel special medical correspondent, part of ABC7's team of coronavirus experts. "It is not called the China Virus, the Chinese Virus, or the Wuhan Virus."

We asked him to break down the name of the virus to help us better understand the origin, where the name really comes from.

Some people have assumed the "C" in COVID-19 means it came from China.

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"No!" said Dr. Patel. "The 'C' stands for 'coronavirus.' Here's the thing, the virus doesn't discriminate or differentiate based on race or ethnicity or where you come from."

The "corona" in "coronavirus" actually comes from what the virus looks like.

"Under a microscope, the virus has these little proteins that sticks out of it and it kind of looks like the sun, the corona," said Dr. Patel.

The novel coronavirus is the name of the virus.

"The disease it causes is called COVID-19. 'CO' corona, 'V-I' virus, 'D' disease, '19,' 2019," said Dr. Patel.

Virus outbreaks are often given common names, but they come with stigma and social consequences.

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There was the Swine Flu in 2009 that started in the U.S. and Mad Cow Disease in the United Kingdom. Both outbreaks impacted the sales of pork and beef.

The Asian Flu in 1957, the Hong Kong Flu in 1968, Ebola named for the Ebola River in Africa, and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia.

Sometimes the name gets it wrong.

The Spanish Flu killed at least 50 million people in 1918. Scientists now believe it actually started in Kansas but got its name from the huge number of people in Spain who died from the flu strain.

"We never called the 2016 measles outbreak 'The Southern California unvaccinated virus,' that wouldn't have been appropriate," said Dr. Patel.

That's why The World Health Organization, top health experts with the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health are urging people to use the correct name for this pandemic "COVID-19."

"Here's the thing, we live in a different time now, and people can say all they want, 'Hey, in the past they've named these viruses after geographic locations in the past,'" Dr. Patel said. "What we will say back to them is yes, but with outbreaks in this world we see associated racism, and we see associated prejudice, so why don't we learn from the past, and why don't we set a new standard and get everyone on board with a more scientific process, and that's called actually calling the virus by its actual scientific name, SARS-Cov2 and calling the disease COVID-19."

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