Following months of calls from global experts, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced it will assign a new disease name to the current strain of monkeypox spreading around the world. Opening the process to public submissions for the first time, early suggestions for the new disease name include Poxy McPox, Mpox, MOVID-22 and minyak atsiri Banepox.
Soon after the current monkeypox outbreak kicked off in early May, infectious disease experts began calling for the disease’s name to be changed. Not only were the two main groupings of the virus (or clades) named after regions in Africa, but it’s been suggested the name monkeypox itself is a stigmatizing misnomer.
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By early June the Director-General of the WHO announced name change discussions were underway but nothing happened for two months. Then, an unexpected news release suddenly announced the two main monkeypox viral clades had been renamed.
“Consensus was reached to now refer to the former Congo Basin (Central African) clade as Clade one (I) and the former West African clade as Clade two (II),” the WHO announced in early August. “Additionally, it was agreed that the Clade II consists of two subclades.”
But monkeypox the disease was still called monkeypox …
A recent letter from Ashwin Vasan, commissioner of New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, to the Director-General of WHO urged the renaming of monkeypox to be considered a priority. Vasan said language in public health matters, and he sees real harm in not moving quickly on changing the name of this disease.
“NYC joins many public health experts and community leaders who have expressed their serious concern about continuing to exclusively use the term ‘monkeypox’ given the stigma it may engender, and the painful and racist history within which terminology like this is rooted for communities of color,” Vasan explained. “’Monkeypox’ is a misnomer, as the virus does not originate in monkeys and was only classified as such due to an infection seen in research primates.”