The World Health Organization has come up with a new name for monkeypox, as it tries to avoid a term that's led to “racist and stigmatizing language” online and in public.
WHO officials said Monday that they've been working on a new name since August and they've finally settled on one: "mpox."
It's not the most inventive name, but it does fit with the WHO's goal of avoiding disease names that can lead to hate against people, groups or places.
“Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while 'monkeypox' is phased out,” the international organization said.
The WHO says the change was needed after the most recent global outbreak, which triggered some toxic comments about it in the process.
Mpox occurs primarily in “tropical rainforest areas of central and west Africa,” according to the WHO. It's a zoonotic disease, which means it's typically transmitted from animals to humans.
However, the virus has spread from person to person in dozens of countries where it’s not typically found over the last several months.
Approximately 80,000 cases have been detected and 50 people have died since the outbreak began in May, according to recent numbers. A majority of cases have been found in men who identify as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with other men.
The WHO says many individuals and countries have complained about the name and recommended that a new one be devised. Updating a disease's name typically takes several years, but officials apparently fast-tracked the switch on this one.
Critics have argued that "monkeypox" is "discriminatory and stigmatizing" because it casts the continent of Africa in a bad light.
The viral disease was first discovered in captive monkeys in 1958, and that led to it being called human monkeypox in 1970, the WHO says. That was before the WHO started being more careful about how it names diseases.
Transmission typically happens through close contact between people, and the disease can be prevented using smallpox vaccines, the WHO says.
Symptoms can include fever, intense headaches, back pain, muscle aches, lack of energy and lesions on the skin. The WHO says it typically lasts two-to-four weeks and the fatality rate is about 3-6%.
This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.