The World Health Organization (WHO), has renamed Monkeypox as Mpox citing racist stigma that follows the disease’s original name which plays into “racist and stigmatizing language,” the international agency announced on Monday.
It also said the name change will take time to effect and replace as the term had been used for decades since the first human monkeypox case was recorded in 1970 after the virus was initially detected years earlier in captive monkeys.
“Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out,” the WHO said.
Scientists and experts have long pushed since the start of the recent outbreak to change the name to avoid discrimination and stigma that could steer people away from testing and vaccination.
The stigma has been an ongoing concern as the outbreak has largely affected homosexuals and in the United States, Black and Hispanic people have been disproportionately affected from the disease, further lending credence to fears of stigmatization.
“We must do all we can to break down barriers to public health, and reducing stigma associated with disease is one critical step in our work to end mpox,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement shortly after the name change.
The announcement has also drawn commendations from a wide range of experts, and has been applauded by a Nigerian global health equity advocate and a senior New Voices fellow at the Aspen Institute in the United States, Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, who have his approval for the name change.
“Mpox is better than monkeypox because it still contains ‘pox’, which speaks to the physical nature of the disease.
“Removing ‘monkey’ removes the stigma that monkeypox comes with and deals with the possible misinformation about how it’s transmitted, as it might falsely suggest monkeys are the main source of spreading the virus to humans,” Nsofor told journalists.
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