Monkeypox renamed due to 'racism and stigmatising' connotations

Monkeypox will be renamed as ‘mpox’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO) due to “racist and stigmatising language” used online.

WHO says both names will be used simultaneously for a year while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out, following “consultations with global experts”.

Human monkeypox was given its name in 1970, after the virus that causes the disease was discovered in captive monkeys in 1958.

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In 2015, however, WHO announced that disease names “should be given with the aim to minimise 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”.

A registered nurse prepares a dose of a monkeypox vaccine. Picture: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

A statement from WHO reads: “When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatising 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.

“Assigning names to new and, very exceptionally, to existing diseases is the responsibility of WHO under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the WHO Family of International Health Related Classifications through a consultative process, which includes WHO member states.

“WHO, in accordance with the ICD update process, held consultations to gather views from a range of experts, as well as countries and the general public, who were invited to submit suggestions for new names.”

So far, monkeypox has been responsible for more than 80,000 known infections worldwide and 55 deaths, according to WHO data.

Symptoms vary, but include inflammation of the rectum, high temperature, headache, flu like symptoms and swollen glands.

A blistering rash usually starts one to five days after other symptoms. The rash may start on the face or in the genital area and may spread to other parts of the body.

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In September, a second strain of monkeypox was detected in the UK after a person who had travelled to West Africa was diagnosed.

Outside of Africa, nearly all cases have been in gay, bisexual or other men who have sexual intercourse with men.

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