WHO will now call monkeypox ‘mpox’


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    The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that it would start using the term “mpox” for monkeypox, which has infected about 80,000 people in the first major outbreak of the viral disease outside Africa that began early this summer.

    • The disease spread mainly in the Americas including the United States and Europe, primarily among men who have sex with men (MSM).

    Rationale behind the move

    • The change of name, announced after a series of consultations with global experts, has been provoked by the racist connotations that “monkeypox” sometimes carries. 
      • Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while “monkeypox” is phased out, the WHO said.
    • When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatizing language online, in other settings and in some communities was observed and reported to WHO.
    •  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

    Naming the disease:

    • Human monkeypox was given its name in 1970 (after the virus that causes the disease was discovered in captive monkeys in 1958), before the publication of WHO best practices in naming diseases, published in 2015. 
    • According to these best practices, new disease names should be given with the aim to minimize unnecessary negative impact of names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.
    • Assigning new names to new and, very exceptionally, to existing diseases is the responsibility of WHO 

    Naming of viruses:

    • The naming of viruses is the responsibility of the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). 
      • Prior to the 2022 global monkeypox outbreak, there was already a process underway to reconsider the naming of all orthopoxvirus species, including monkeypox virus. This will continue under ICTV leadership.