CNN’s Alisyn Camerota got called out by a South African infectious disease specialist when she referred to a mutated strain of the coronavirus as the “South African variant” instead of by its scientific name, 501Y.V2

“I don’t mean to disparage South Africa,” she said. It’s just that it’s “a handy shorthand”:

You mean like how calling the original strain after Wuhan was “handy shorthand” but dismissed as racist? Anyway, it’s good to see them called out on their own rules as the WHO has criticized this nomenclature for a month now:

Here are the proper names, via the CDC:

  • In the United Kingdom (UK), a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 (known as 20I/501Y.V1, VOC 202012/01, or B.1.1.7) emerged with a large number of mutations. This variant has since been detected in numerous countries around the world, including the United States (US). In January 2021, scientists from UK reported evidence[1] that suggests the B.1.1.7 variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared with other variants. More studies are needed to confirm this finding. This variant was reported in the US at the end of December 2020.
  • In South Africa, another variant of SARS-CoV-2 (known as 20H/501Y.V2 or B.1.351) emerged independently of B.1.1.7. This variant shares some mutations with B.1.1.7. Cases attributed to this variant have been detected in multiple countries outside of South Africa. This variant was reported in the US at the end of January 2021.
  • In Brazil, a variant of SARS-CoV-2 (known as P.1) emerged that was first was identified in four travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at Haneda airport outside Tokyo, Japan. This variant has 17 unique mutations, including three in the receptor binding domain of the spike protein. This variant was detected in the US at the end of January 2021.

Here’s where each of these variants has been found, so far:

Apparently, there is a “transition period” where you can name a variant after a geographic location before it becomes problematic. Who knew?

It does make sense to give these variants “shorthand” name, howevers, so we non-experts can keep them straight:

South Africa, in particular, seems pretty touchy about this variant getting named after their country:

Exit question: Will anyone really care once an American variant is discovered? Because that’s coming.