The WHO Plans To Rename Monkeypox & They're Worried About The 'Stigma' It Might Be Causing

They want to roll out the new name ASAP.

Global Staff Writer
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a media briefing. Right: A person with a smallpox vaccine.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a media briefing. Right: A person with a smallpox vaccine.

Monkeypox will likely get a new name when the World Health Organization meets to discuss it next week because scientists worry that the current name is discriminatory.

The virus is endemic to central and western Africa, meaning that it's always circulating at low levels. But with the latest outbreak that's spread to several other countries around the world, officials worry that the name "monkeypox" will stigmatize those regions where it's more common.

During a media briefing Tuesday, the WHO announced that it would be making "announcements about the new names as soon as possible" after a group of researchers advocated for changing it.

The plan comes after over two dozen scientists called for change on the online forum Virological, saying that the world needs more "nondiscriminatory and non-stigmatizing nomenclature."

"In the context of the current global outbreak, continued reference to and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing," said the online post.

"The most obvious manifestation of this is the use of photos of African patients to depict the pox lesions in mainstream media in the global north," continued the post. "Recently, Foreign Press Association, Africa issued a statement urging the global media to stop using images of African people to highlight the outbreak in Europe."

The post also outlined that monkeypox's origins are still unknown, so associating it with Africa is inaccurate and unfair.

The scientists are instead encouraging the global community to come up with a more appropriate name "that is neutral, nondiscriminatory and non-stigmatizing."

The WHO did something similar with COVID-19 to prevent people from giving it names related to Wuhan, China.

According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization is “working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of the monkeypox virus,” as reported by The Guardian.

Based on the WHO's last count, there are 1,600 confirmed cases of the virus globally and an additional 1,500 suspected cases from 39 countries.

Of these countries, 32 have been newly infected. Authorities have also said that the virus is behaving "unusually."

"It's now clear that there is an unusual situation, meaning [that] even the virus is behaving unusually from how it used to behave in the past," said Dr. Tedros.

Because of its unusual activity, the WHO will be hosting an emergency meeting on June 23 to determine if the virus should be considered a public health emergency of international concern.

That's the highest alert the WHO has, and they last used it for COVID-19.

Sameen Chaudhry
Global Staff Writer
Sameen Chaudhry is a Staff Writer for Narcity’s Global Desk focused on TikTok drama and is based in Toronto, Ontario.
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