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WHO Has New Naming System for COVID Variants

It's trying to get away from people referring to 'Indian variant,' 'UK variant,' etc.
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2021 2:19 AM CDT

(Newser) – Stop calling it the "Indian variant" or the "UK variant," and instead go with the "Delta" variant for the former and "Alpha" for the latter. If you want to refer to the COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa, that would be "Beta." That's the new directive from the WHO, which is trying to veer people away from the tendency to refer to the variants using the names of the regions where they were first detected, the BBC reports. "No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants," WHO's COVID technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, tweeted Monday. There are currently four variants of concern: the three listed above, and the one first detected in Brazil, now known as Gamma. Variants of interest also have their own labels.

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However, these are just labels, and do not replace the official scientific names for the variants (such as B.1.617.2 for the variant now known as Delta). However, those "can be difficult to say and recall, and are prone to misreporting," the WHO says in a statement cited by Al Jazeera. "As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatizing and discriminatory." If the agency runs out of letters in the Greek alphabet (there are 24), a new system will be introduced. A full list of variants and their associated Greek letters is here. (This new variant is a hybrid of two others.)

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