Why do scientists (pretty consistently) call it Ebola virus disease, rather than just Ebola, or Ebola disease?

Many other diseases are caused by viruses, but they don't seem to have this detail of terminology. Nor do you hear the analogous terminology for bacteria.

For example:

  • Rubella is caused by the rubella virus.
  • Influenza is caused by various influenza viruses (genus names Influenzavirus A/B/C).
  • Some strains of E. coli (pathogenic E. coli) cause disease, but you never hear E. coli bacteria disease.
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    $\begingroup$ I think there is no specific reason. It is probably simply a naming which got widely adopted. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 5:38

1 Answer 1


This is now how new viral diseases are being named, possibly because one can have/carry a virus without having a disease (e.g. HIV, herpes simplex, etc.). It is not as uncommon as you think.

A bit of googling will turn up reputable sites which discuss the epidemiology of Hantavirus disease, Hendra Virus Disease, Powassan Virus Disease, Lake Victoria Marburgvirus disease, Lujo virus disease, Ross River virus disease, Nipah virus disease, respiratory syncytial virus disease, Kunjin virus disease, Chikungunya Virus Disease, Heartland virus disease, St. Louis encephalitis virus disease, West Nile virus disease, Eastern equine encephalitis virus disease, Western equine encephalitis virus disease, and California serogroup virus disease (includes infections with the following viruses: La Crosse, Jamestown Canyon, snowshoe hare, trivittatus, Keystone, and California encephalitis viruses) and others, but I'm stopping here.

Bacteria cause diseases, but many already had/have names: Typhus (Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia prowazekii), Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Rickettsia rickettsii), Diptheria (Corynebacterium diphtheriae), Lyme disease (at least three species of bacteria belonging to the genus Borrelia), Pertussis/Whooping Cough (Bordetella pertussis), Tetanus (Clostridium tetani), etc.

Interestingly, I have started to see scholarly articles for Clostridium Difficile Disease, which was an entirely new name for what we used to call Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea. So maybe there will be a shift in that direction as well; time will tell.

How diseases are named is another whole thing.

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    $\begingroup$ "Viral diseases" is also the term used in WHO reports on "International Nomenclature of Diseases", see e.g. "Viral Diseases: Infectious Diseases (International Nomenclature of Diseases)". $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 7:51
  • $\begingroup$ I notice that a lot of the examples you provide are geographical names. Maybe the convention is to use the name of the disease if there is one (encephalitis, chikungunya) and to use "[geographical place] virus disease" where it's a geographical term to avoid confusing it with the place name (St. Louis, Ross River, Ebola River, the town of Marburg, and so on). $\endgroup$
    – Gaurav
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 1:55

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