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WHO renames monkeypox as ‘mpox’

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  • “Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out,” the organization said.
  • Scientists and experts have pushed since the start of the recent outbreak to change the name to avoid discrimination and stigma that could steer people away from testing and vaccination.

The World Health
Organization announced Monday that “mpox” is now the preferred name
for monkeypox.

“Both names will be used simultaneously for one year
while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out,” the organization said.

The Biden administration said they “welcome the change”
and the US will use the mpox name “from this point forward.”

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 kinds of animals. 

The
name was created before WHO published best practices for naming diseases in
2015.

Scientists and experts have pushed since the start of the
recent outbreak to change the name to avoid discrimination and stigma
that could steer people away from testing and vaccination.

Stigma has been an
ongoing concern as the outbreak has largely affected men who have sex with men.
In the United States, Black and Hispanic people have been disproportionately
affected, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention show.

“We must do all we can to break down barriers to public
health, and reducing stigma associated with disease is one critical step in our
work to end mpox,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary
Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

This summer, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin
Vasan sent a letter to WHO to urge it to act quickly on a new name,
saying there’s “growing concern for the potentially devastating and
stigmatizing effects that the messaging around the ‘monkeypox’ virus can have
on these already vulnerable communities.”

In August, WHO encouraged people to propose new names for
monkeypox by submitting suggestions to it website. WHO said Monday that the
consultation process included experts from medical, scientific, classification
and statistics advisory committees “which constituted of representatives from
government authorities of 45 different countries.”

“The issue of the use of the new name in different
languages was extensively discussed. The preferred term mpox can be used in
other languages,” WHO said in its statement.

WHO said Monday that
“monkeypox” will remain searchable in the International Classification of
Diseases in order to allow access to historic information, and the one-year
period when both will be used allows time for publications and communications
to be updated.

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



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