Why is it called the Coronavirus?

The name coronavirus comes from the physical appearance of the virus. Under a microscope, a coronavirus is covered with pointy structures that look similar to a crown, or corona.

It’s technically accurate to say “a coronavirus” or “this coronavirus,” not “the coronavirus” because this virus is only one type of coronavirus that exists. For example, SARS is a type of coronavirus. Furthermore, and contrary to popular belief, the virus isn’t actually named coronavirus or COVID-19. COVID-19 is the name of the disease people can get when they are infected with this specific coronavirus. The name for the disease, COVID-19 comes from ‘CO’ (corona), ‘VI’ (virus), ‘D’ (disease), and ’19’ for 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced “COVID-19” as the name for this disease on February 11th, 2020, following the guidelines developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

This virus is actually named, ‘severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2,’ or SARS-CoV-2. The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) is responsible for the naming viruses. Viruses are named based on the unique genetic characteristics of each one to facilitate the development of diagnostic tests, therapies, medicines, and vaccines. You might have heard this virus referred to as a novel virus. A novel virus is a virus that has not been seen before. 


Even though COVID-19 likely emerged from an animal source, it spreads person to person and there is no evidence to suggest that dogs, cats, or any other pets could become infected. However, experts are learning more about this virus every day and can’t say with 100% certainty that this is true. It’s still a good idea to wash your hands after handling your cats and dogs since the virus can remain on your pet’s fur and/or skin and infect other people who handle it. 


Some experts believe that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a food market in Wuhan, China, although the exact source is still being investigated. A study was published on January 20, 2020, which stated that patient zero became ill on December 1st, 2019, but had not visited the food market in question, so the investigations are ongoing and no one can say for sure. You might have heard the virus came from eating bats in China. This is because experts know a diverse group of viruses exist in horseshoe bats, many of which are very similar to the coronaviruses we are familiar with. Horseshoe bats are hunted and eaten in China, and this is how other animals, and humans, became infected with SARS during the 2002 – 2004 SARS outbreak. So, it’s likely that SARS-CoV-2 originated in bats, but no one can say for sure yet.

  1. There are about a million virus particles per milliliter of seawater.
  2. The name virus comes from the Latin word meaning poison or liquid or poison.
  3. Viruses are not alive. They are complex inanimate organic matter.
  4. The first human influenza virus was isolated in 1933.

  1. CDC.gov – Frequently Asked Questions
  2. WHO.int – Frequently Asked Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it
  3. HopkinsMedicine.org – What Is Coronavirus?
  4. Vox.com – This is not the bat’s fault
  5. Virology.ws – Ten cool facts about viruses

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