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WHO Renames Monkeypox to Avoid Stigma

A physician assistant prepares a syringe with the monkeypox vaccine for a patient during a vaccination clinic Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in New York.

Monkeypox is to be rebranded as ‘mpox’ the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday, in a bid to avoid negative connotations that might lead to stigmatization.

“Following a series of consultations with global experts, WHO will begin using a new preferred term ‘mpox’ as a synonym for monkeypox. Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out,” the U.N. health agency said in a statement.

The WHO said the term monkeypox would be phased out over the coming year, and the agency would adopt the new term in its communications, encouraging others to follow the recommendations.

WHO added that the decision was to “avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups, and minimize any negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare.”

The phasing out follows a forum in the summer in which two families of monkeypox - the Congo Basin and West African clades - were renamed as Clade I and Clade II.

The virus first appeared in monkeys which led to naming it monkeypox.

After the virus that causes the disease was discovered in 1958, human monkeypox was first given its name in 1970 after it was first discovered in humans in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In May, cases of the disease, which causes fever, muscular aches and large boil-like skin lesions, began spreading rapidly around the world.

The WHO triggered its highest level of alarm on July 24, classifying it as a public health emergency of international concern, alongside COVID-19.

Some 81, 107 cases and 55 deaths have been reported to the WHO this year, from 110 countries.

In 2015, WHO released new guidelines entitled “Best Practices for the Naming of New Human Infectious Diseases,” in which it advised that diseases should no longer be named after places, specific people such as “Creutzfeld-Jakob disease’ or Alzheimer’s, occupations, such as Legionnaires disease, or animals, such as swine flu.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO renamed several variants, including the Kent variant, which became Alpha, the South African variant, which became Beta.

Information for this report came from Agence France-Presse.