Fact Check: COVID Does NOT Stand For 'Chinese Originated Viral Infectious Disease'

Hoax Alert

  • by: Anne Brown
Fact Check: COVID Does NOT Stand For 'Chinese Originated Viral Infectious Disease' Not Real Name!

Does COVID stand for "Chinese Originated Viral Infectious Disease"? No, that's not true: A meme making the rounds on Facebook claims the acronym of the highly infectious and worldwide virus, COVID-19, or coronavirus, was named for China - where it appears to have originated.

The claim surfaced in a post (archived here) published on Facebook on March 22, 2020. The meme in the post read:

Hate to break this to all of the morons who call themselves Journalists

COVID literally stands for "Chinese Originated Viral Infectious Disease" and the number 19 is due to this being the 19th virus to come out of China."

It's hard to know if this meme originated as a joke or was created as a way to spread xenophobia and fake news. But nothing about it is true. In fact, the World Health Organization announced the official name of the disease on February 11, 2020, with the CDC explaining the abbreviation "COVID-19" means this:

'CO' stands for 'corona,' 'VI' for 'virus,' and 'D' for disease.

Formerly, this disease was referred to as "2019 novel coronavirus" or "2019-nCoV".

Why do the disease and virus have different names? As explained by the experts at WHO, people often know the name of the disease - such as AIDS or measles - but are not as familiar with the name of the virus that causes it, like HIV and rubeola.

The coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China, and President Trump often refers to it as the "Chinese virus," leading to charges he is inflaming racial tensions. There have also been allegations that the president's slang for the novel coronavirus has led to assaults on people of Asian descent.

But in WHO's announcement naming the virus, it noted worldwide experts intentionally agreed not to refer to a geographical location to avoid stigmatizing a region. It says in looking for a pronounceable name that referred to the virus, it also wanted to avoid naming the disease after animals or a specific group of people.

The CDC has a section on its website specifically to explain, reduce and counter stigmas, saying they are usually fear- or ignorance-based:

Everyone can help stop stigma related to COVID-19 by knowing the facts."

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Anne Brown

Anne Brown, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is the former Senior Director of Special Events at CNN. Over the course of her 30-plus year career in television news based at CNN’s world headquarters in Atlanta, she covered major events both domestic and international, winning Emmy and Peabody awards along the way.  Brown led on-location production and logistics teams through events ranging from long-standing political events to breaking news, and everything in between: Royal weddings, state funerals, POTUS overseas trips, summits, inaugurations, trials, hurricanes, Super Bowls and many debates. She has a Journalism degree from Northeastern University and a passion for finding trails to the truth.

 

Read more about or contact Anne Brown

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