WHO renames monkeypox to ‘mpox’
World Health Organization announced Monday that “mpox” is now the preferred name for monkeypox.
“Both names will be used simultaneously for a year while ‘monkey pox’ is phased out,” the organization said.
Monkeypox was named in 1970, more than a decade after the virus that causes the disease was discovered in captive monkeys, the organization said. But monkeypox probably didn’t start in monkeys—its origin is still unknown—and the virus can be found in several other animal species. The name was created before the WHO announced it best practices for disease naming in 2015
Scientists and experts have advocated since the beginning of the recent epidemic until change the name to avoid discrimination and stigma that could deter people from testing and vaccination. Stigma is an ongoing concern because the epidemic has largely affected men who have sex with men. In the United States, blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately affected, data from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
This summer, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan sent a letter The World Health Organization to respond urgently to the new name, saying there was “growing concern about the potentially devastating and stigmatizing effects that messages about the ‘monkeypox’ virus could have on these already vulnerable communities.”
In August, the WHO encouraged people to suggest new names for monkeypox by posting suggestions on its website. The WHO said on Monday that the consultation process involved experts from medical, scientific, classification and statistical advisory boards “consisting of representatives of government bodies from 45 different countries”.
“The issue of using the new name in different languages was discussed extensively. The preferred term mpox can be used in other languages,” the WHO said in its statement.
The WHO said Monday that “monkey pox” will remain searchable in the International Classification of Diseases to allow access to historical information, and the one-year period when both will be used gives time to update publications and communications.
So far more than 81,000 cases of monkeypox 110 cases were reported to WHO in the recent outbreak. The WHO says the global risk remains moderate, and outside West and Central African countries, the epidemic continues to primarily affect men who have sex with men.
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