WHO Renames Monkeypox ‘mpox’ Citing Racism Concerns

Monkeypox will be renamed’mpox,’ according to health officials today, following a push to find a ‘non-discriminatory’ term. Following a global surge of cases, World Health Organization (WHO) officials promised to create a new name for the disease this summer. Previously, cases of the rash-causing virus were mostly limited to African countries. Outbreaks elsewhere were imported, sporadic, and quickly contained.

According to the organization, monkeypox was named in 1970, more than a decade after the virus that causes the disease was discovered in captive monkeys. However, monkeypox did not originate in monkeys – its origin is unknown – and the virus can be found in a variety of other animals. The name was created before the World Health Organization published best practices for disease naming in 2015.

Since the beginning of the recent outbreak, scientists and experts have pushed to change the name in order to avoid stigma and discrimination that could deter people from testing and vaccination. As the outbreak has primarily affected men who have sex with men, stigma has been a persistent issue. According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black and Hispanic people have been disproportionately affected in the United States.

This summer, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan urged WHO to act quickly on a new name, citing “growing concern for the potentially devastating and stigmatizing effects” that the messages surrounding the virus could have on the already vulnerable communities. In August, the WHO encouraged people to suggest new names for monkeypox by submitting them to its website. According to WHO, the consultation process included experts from medical, scientific, classification, and statistics advisory committees representing “government authorities from 45 different countries.”

The World Health Organization announced that “monkeypox” will remain searchable in the International Classification of Diseases to allow access to historical information, and both terms will be used for one year in order to allow sufficient time to update publications and communications.

In the recent outbreak, more than 81,000 monkeypox cases in 110 cases have been reported to WHO. According to the WHO, the global risk remains moderate, and the outbreak continues to primarily affect men who have sex with men outside of countries in West and Central Africa. The organization said that the global risk remains moderate, and the outbreak continues to primarily affect men who have sex with men outside of countries in West and Central Africa.

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