Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Covid-19: a puzzle with many missing pieces

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 19 February 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m627

Read our latest coverage of the Coronavirus outbreak

Linked Research

Clinical findings in a group of patients infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2)

Rapid Response:

The useful step forward in piecing together the COVID-19 puzzle is using the correct names

Dear Editors

In view of confusing terminology by the authors of the article as well as the rapid responses, I wish to point out the following:

The World Health Organisation on 11 February 2020 (ref 1) defined that the disease from current coronavirus outbreaks is COVID-19 (not ”covid-19”)

The virus causing this disease, formerly known as 2019 novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, is now called “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)”.

To reduce communication errors, the WHO may call it “the virus responsible for COVID-19” or “the COVID-19 virus” when communicating with the public.

Despite this communique available for the last 3 weeks, the authors of this editorial and many respondents do not appear to use the correct terminology, particularly ironical since the linked research paper submitted in 31 Jan 2020 with the original 2019-nCoV term (ref 2) was published with the WHO-approved terminology on 19 Feb 2020.

Furthermore, many media outlets are using the term “COVID-19” correctly with capital letters; it is important that BMJ is doing the same as a medical professional publication.

Some readers may think this is pedantic, but having lived through the not-so-long-ago experience of prejudices and confusion over GRID/ HTLV-III/LAV or non A non B hepatitis literature, if we are to communicate properly we will have to start using the correct language, particularly if those future researchers investigating how this outbreak is handled are to gather sufficient information with as little confusion over terminology as possible.



Competing interests: No competing interests

03 March 2020
Shyan Goh
Orthopaedic Surgeon
Sydney, Australia