Following allegations of racist and stigmatizing language around the disease’s name, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that monkeypox would henceforth be called mpox.
A series of meetings with global specialists led to the decision.
Both terms will be used concurrently for one year until the monkeypox phrase is eliminated.
“This serves to alleviate concerns voiced by experts regarding confusion created by a name change during a worldwide pandemic,” the UN agency said in a statement.
Mpox is a rare viral disease that typically occurs in the tropical rainforests of Central and West Africa; however, outbreaks occurred in various regions of the world in 2018.
There are almost 80,000 cases, 55 deaths, and 110 affected nations.
WHO saw and received complaints of racist and stigmatizing language online, in other places, and in certain communities as the current outbreak spread.
“In several public and private discussions, a number of individuals and nations voiced concerns and asked WHO to propose a path forward to alter the name,” the agency stated.
The disease was given the name monkeypox in 1970, around 12 years after the virus that causes it was found in captive monkeys.
This was prior to 2015 when the WHO first established guidelines for naming diseases.
These rules indicate that new illness names minimize unwarranted negative effects on commerce, travel, tourism, and animal welfare.
Additionally, they should avoid upsetting cultural, social, national, regional, or ethnic groups.
Through a collaborative procedure, the WHO allocates names to new and, in extremely rare cases, existing diseases.
Experts in the medical and scientific fields, government officials from 45 nations, and the general public were invited to submit their ideas.
Based on consultations and additional talks with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the agency has suggested using the synonym mpox.
Considerations included rationality, scientific appropriateness, contemporary usage, pronounceability, usability in several languages, absence of geographical or zoological connotations, and ease of retrieval of past scientific data.
WHO will begin using the word mpox in its communications and invites others to do so as well.
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