The comedian and host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” spent the last several minutes of his weekly cable program arguing in favor of using terms like “Chinese virus” to refer to the coronavirus, which has infected more than a million people worldwide since being discovered late last year in Wuhan, China.
“Scientists, who are generally pretty liberal, have been naming diseases after the places they came from for a very long time,” noted Mr. Maher. “Zika is from the Zika forest. Ebola from the Ebola river. Hantavirus from the Hantan river. There is the West Nile virus and Guinea Worm and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and of course, the Spanish flu. MERS stands for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, it’s plastered all over airports and no one blogs about it. So why should China get a pass?”
Reacting to the argument that it is racist to refer to the coronavirus by where it originated, Mr. Maher asked: “Can’t we even have a pandemic without getting offended?”
“Seriously, it scares me that there are people out there who would rather die from the virus than call it the wrong name. This isn’t about vilifying a culture. This is about facts. This is about life and death,” Mr. Maher said later during the monologue.
“So when someone says, ‘what if people hear Chinese Virus and blame China?’ the answer is, we should blame China. Not Chinese Americans, but we can’t stop telling the truth because racists get the wrong idea. There are always going to be idiots out there who want to indulge their prejudices. But this is an emergency. Don’t we have bigger tainted fish to fry?” Mr. Maher added.
The World Health Organization has reported that the first cases of COVID-19, the highly contagious and potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, were discovered in Wuhan at the end of 2019. Several of the first patients were previously described by the organization as dealers or vendors at a local market where exotic animals were sold.
Guidelines used by the WHO to name new diseases states that they should “not refer to a geographical location” to avoid stigmatizing.
Internationally, more than 1.7 million people have contracted COVID-19 so far, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins University. Of those, over 100,000 have died and over 389,000 have recovered.
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