Monkeypox gets new name after ‘racist and stigmatizing language,’ health officials say

Mpox was selected after some agencies had independently started using other names such as MPX or MPV

By Julia Marnin
The Charlotte Observer

GENEVA — Monkeypox disease is officially getting a new name.

The old term will be “phased out” during a transition period and “mpox” will take its place, the World Health Organization announced on Monday, Nov. 28.

Monkeypox, renamed mpox, results in a rash that can cover various parts of the body, including hands, feet, face, mouth or genitals, according to the CDC.
Monkeypox, renamed mpox, results in a rash that can cover various parts of the body, including hands, feet, face, mouth or genitals, according to the CDC. (File photo/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Associated Press)

The switch comes after countries came to the WHO with reports of racism associated with monkeypox — a name established in 1970, according to a news release.

“When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatizing language online, in other settings and in some communities was observed and reported,” the WHO said.

In the 2022 outbreak, there have been 80,850 cases of monkeypox worldwide as of Nov. 23, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these cases, 29,248 occurred in the U.S.

The name monkeypox was designated for the disease affecting humans after it was discovered in infected captive monkeys in 1958, according to the global health agency. It was chosen long before the WHO published guidance on the best practices in naming human diseases in 2015.

“According to these best practices, new disease names should be given with the aim to minimize unnecessary negative impact of names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups,” the WHO said in a statement.

Some local health agencies had already independently started using other names, like MPX in San Francisco or MPV in Chicago, earlier this year after concerns over the name began to spread, CNN reported.

Mpox was selected as the preferred name after the WHO spoke with global experts, countries and members of the public following requests to change the name, according to the release.

In a year, mpox will replace monkeypox after the current naming transition period ends, the WHO said. It will be used internationally.

“The issue of the use of the new name in different languages was extensively discussed,” the agency said in a statement. “The preferred term mpox can be used in other languages.”

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Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is spread from animals to humans, and has been identified in tree squirrels, dormice and more alongside certain monkey species, according to the WHO.

In 1970, it was first detected in humans when a 9-month-old baby in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a nation in Central Africa, was infected with it, a WHO fact sheet said. In 2003, the first outbreak of the disease beyond Africa took place in the U.S.

Monkeypox results in a rash that can cover various regions of the body, including on the hands, feet, face, mouth or genitals, according to the CDC.

Symptoms can be painful for some people and lesions may also appear on the skin, McClatchy News reported.

The experiences of those infected can range from mild to severe, so each infection will not look the same, Dr. Marshall Glesby, the associate chief of the division of infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, previously told McClatchy News.


©2022 The Charlotte Observer.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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