Global Health Officials Announce Updated Name for Monkeypox
By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday it will start phasing out the term “monkeypox” in favor of the shorter “mpox” to refer to the viral infection that has infected thousands of people globally in 2022.
WHO made the change after consulting experts regarding the “rationale, scientific appropriateness, extent of current usage, pronounceability, usability in different languages, absence of geographical or zoological references, and the ease of retrieval of historical scientific information.”
But perhaps the most central reason for the name change is more insidious: “racist and stigmatizing language” that started appearing online after outbreaks became more widespread and often reported. “In several meetings, public and private, a number of individuals and countries raised concerns and asked WHO to propose a way forward to change the name,” the agency explained in its announcement about the decision.
For one year, WHO said it will use both “monkeypox” and “mpox,” gradually phasing out the former term as everyone becomes more familiar with the latter.
In a statement of support, the Biden administration announced federal public health agencies will adopt “mpox” moving forward, “a term for the disease that doesn’t act to marginalize individuals from accessing the care, resources, and support they need to protect themselves and others,” the administration wrote.
The name “monkeypox” emerged officially in 1970. Under the provisions of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems and working through the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, global health officials name new viruses (or, in this case, rename old ones). According to WHO, this process can take years, but officials decided to speed the work for monkeypox. In fact, WHO said it already was considering using different naming for all orthopoxvirus species.
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