Thursday, 7 July, 2022
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WHO to rename monkeypox to ‘combat racism and stigma’

In the same way COVID-19 became associated with China, so too is the monkeypox virus being stigmatised with a link to Africa, a group of scientists has written, resulting in the the World Health Organisation now announcing it will rename the virus.

The current name for the virus, which has infected more than 1,600 people in 39 countries this year and was first reported in Africa, does not adhere to WHO guidelines that discourage the use of geographic regions or animals, Bloomberg reports.

The group of more than 30 international scientists had called for a name change last week, writing that “continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatising”.

• “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.”

• There is also “an increasing narrative in the media and among many scientists trying to link the present global outbreak to Africa or West Africa, or Nigeria” the letter pointed out.

• “As any other disease, it can occur in any region in the world and afflict anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity,” the letter added. “As such, we believe that no race or skin complexion should be the face of this disease.”

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing that the WHO was “working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of monkeypox virus, its clades and the disease it causes”, according to Axios. The organisation will announce new names as soon as possible, he added.

The agency is apparently consulting experts in orthopoxviruses – the family to which monkeypox belongs – to come up with an appropriate name.

The health agency is also holding an emergency meeting next week to determine whether to classify the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern.

Naming diseases “should be done with the aim to minimise the negative impact and avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups,” a WHO spokesperson said.


Axios article – WHO will rename monkeypox virus to combat racism and stigma (Open access)


Bloomberg article – WHO will rename monkeypox to minimize stigma racism (Restricted access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Monkeypox possibly linked to decrease in smallpox vaccine – global experts


CDC expresses concern over monkeypox outbreak in UK


UK reports first case of monkeypox, probably from Nigeria




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