If we only ever heard about the H1N1 flu subtype, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, much of the public would be unaware of the threat that each could pose
What was the common name for severe acute respiratory syndrome? I only heard it as SARS, and people seemed to get worked up about that just as easily as they did about mad cow disease, or avian flu. There was a water contamination scare around here a few years ago, and cryptosporidium and giardia became household terms for quite a while.
I don't think it's so much the naming as it is the reporting around it. If the media repeats it enough, people will remember the term, even if it is outlandish. The main problem, I think, would be that there's probably dozens of diseases that cause "severe acute respiratory" problems. Naming diseases after prominent symptoms is likely to lead to lots of confusion, as many diseases have very similar symptoms.