In DepthInfectious Diseases

Rules of the name

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Science  15 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6236, pp. 745
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6236.745

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Naming emerging infectious diseases is a tricky business, and one that has led to many conflicts and much confusion over the years. For instance, swine flu, which swept the globe in 2009, is not transmitted by pigs, but some countries still banned pork imports or slaughtered pigs in response to the outbreak. Now, the World Health Organization has released a list of recommendations: In the future, disease names should not include geographic locations; the names of people, occupations, animals, or food; or "terms that incite undue fear." Many scientists think the rules go too far and that they will lead to long names that are hard to remember and breed further confusion.