The new coronavirus, like its predecessors, is a beast to be reckoned with. And yet its working name, 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), is curiously tame.

So technical and nondescript a label is hardly befitting of an epidemic that will not only harm thousands, but also demands an urgent, timely response. At a time when onlookers must be spurred into action, a name like 2019-nCoV inspires the opposite impulse: to forget or file away.

We need a name that is both memorable and searchable. It must be capable of anchoring an ongoing conversation between scientists, government officials, and the general public—one in which crucial information about safety and protection is routinely relayed. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the name of the first outbreak, did the trick. Why can’t we do the same now?

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Originally posted on Forbes (February 7, 2020)