The World Health Organization will rename the monkeypox virus over fears and concerns that it creates stigma for Africans.
Monkeypox, which has been endemic in Africa, is apparently in violation of the World Health Organization’s guidelines to disavow the use of geographic locations and animals.
The move to do away with geographic regions in the naming of diseases comes following concerns that the historic convention promoted bias against certain groups of people, such as those residing in the locations the diseases are named after, the World Health Organization announced in 2015.
The decision to rename monkeypox comes after more than 30 scientists, most of whom are from Africa, complained that calling it “monkeypox” was stigmatizing to Africans.
The group of scientists is calling for the virus to be renamed “hMPXV,” which is unpronounceable. The move, they said, would be a “non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing classification,” the BBC reported.
It is unclear if the World Health Organization will adopt the proposed name, or if they will come up with something more distinct and easier to pronounce. Given the concern over the spread of the virus, it would undoubtedly serve the public better if they don’t name it something confusing or completely illegible.
Around 1,600 cases of monkeypox have been recorded globally over recent weeks, prompting fears of a new global pandemic following COVID-19. Only 72 deaths have been reported in countries where monkeypox is already endemic, but no deaths have been reported in any of the 32 countries where new cases have been detected, such as the United States and the U.K.
“The outbreak of monkeypox is unusual and concerning,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “For that reason I have decided to convene the Emergency Committee under the international health regulations next week, to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.”
Despite growing concerns over monkeypox, infections of the disease are typically mild and the risk to the general population remains low. The virus can be treated with smallpox vaccines, which are available in most developed countries.