WHO renames Monkeypox to mpox, citing racism concerns

LONDON — The World Health Organization has renamed monkeypox to mpox, citing concerns the original name of the decades-old animal disease could be construed as discriminatory and racist.

The United Nations health agency said in a statement Monday that mpox is its new preferred name for monkeypox, saying that both monkeypox and mpox will be used for next year while the old name removed.

The WHO said it was concerned about “racist and discriminatory language” that emerged after chickenpox spread to more than 100 countries. It said many individuals and countries have asked the organization to “propose a way to change the name.”

Read more: What it really feels like to have chickenpox

In August, WHO began consulting experts on renaming the disease, shortly after the UN agency declared the spread of chickenpox an emergency. Global.

To date, there have been more than 80,000 cases identified in dozens of countries that had not previously reported smallpox-related illness. Until May, monkeypox, a disease thought to have originated in animals, had not been identified as causing major outbreaks outside central and west Africa.

Outside of Africa, nearly all cases are in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men. Scientists believe that chickenpox caused outbreaks in Western countries after being sexually transmitted in two raves regions in Belgium and Spain. vaccination efforts In rich countries, along with targeted control interventions, most have brought the epidemic under control after it peaked in the summer.

In Africa, the disease mainly affects people who come into contact with infected animals such as rodents and squirrels. The majority of chickenpox-related deaths are in Africa, where there is virtually no vaccine.

US health officials have warned that it may not be possible to eliminate the disease there, warning that it could be a continuing threat primarily to gay and bisexual men for years. next.

Read more: How does monkeypox virus spread—and does not—spread

Mpox was first named monkeypox in 1958 when monkeys studied in Denmark were observed to have a “chicken-like” disease, although they are not thought to be an animal reservoir for the disease. .

Although the WHO has named many new diseases soon after they emerge, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, and COVID-19, this appears to be the first time the agency has attempted to rename it. for a disease decades after it was first named.

Many other diseases, including Japanese encephalitis, German measles, Marburg virus and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome have been named after geographical areas, which can now be considered harmful. WHO has not suggested changing any of those names.

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