N – WHO renames bird flu viruses

The World Health Organisation has standardised the nomenclature for H5N1 avian influenza viruses. The group of “Fujian-like” viruses should be referred to as “clade 2.3.4,” for example. WHO says the reason for the change is scientific and that it was already in progress when China complained that the name stigmatises its province. Clade 2.3.4 viruses are not restricted to Fuijan—they have caused cases of bird flu in humans in Laos, Burma, and Vietnam. “The geographical naming system [is] rather confusing and unspecific; this more precise numbering system is far more rigorous,” said Edward Holmes, a flu genomicist. See www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/guidelines/nomenclature/en (Nature 2008 Apr 23; doi: 10.1038/452923a)