The World Health Organization announced on Monday that “mpox” is now the preferred name for monkeypox.
“Both names will be used concurrently for one year while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out,” the organization said.
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 species of animals. The name was created before the WHO published best practices for naming diseases in 2015.
Scientists and experts have been pushing since the start of the recent outbreak to change the name to avoid discrimination and stigma that could drive people away from testing and vaccination. Stigma is an ongoing concern as the epidemic has largely affected men who have sex with men. In the United States, blacks and Hispanics have been disproportionately affected, according to data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This summer, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan sent a letter to the WHO urging it to act quickly on a new name, saying there is “growing concern concerning the potentially devastating and stigmatizing effects that messages around the ‘monkeypox’ virus can have”. have on these already vulnerable communities.
In August, the WHO encouraged people to come up with new names for monkeypox by submitting suggestions on its website. The WHO said on Monday that the consultation process included experts from the medical, scientific, classification and statistical advisory committees “which were made up of representatives of government authorities from 45 different countries”.
“The issue of using the new name in different languages was discussed at length. The preferred term mpox may be used in other languages,” the WHO said in its statement.
The WHO said on Monday that “monkeypox” will remain searchable in the International Classification of Diseases to allow access to historical information, and the one-year period that both will be in use allows time for updates to be made. publications and communications.
So far, more than 81,000 out of 110 cases of monkeypox have been reported to WHO in the recent outbreak. According to the WHO, the global risk remains moderate and, outside of West and Central African countries, the epidemic continues to affect mainly men who have sex with men.