LONDON– The World Health Organization says it is holding an open forum to rename the disease monkeypox after some critics raised concerns the name could be derogatory or have racist connotations.
In a statement on Friday, the UN health agency said it had also renamed two families, or clades, of the virus, using Roman numerals instead of geographic areas to avoid stigma. The version of the disease formerly known as the Congo Basin will now be known as Clade One or I and the West African clade will be known as Clade Two or II.
The WHO said the decision was made after a meeting of scientists this week and in line with current best practices for naming diseases that aim to “offend any cultural, social, national, regional, occupational or ethnic group.” to avoid and minimize negative impacts on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare.”
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Numerous other diseases, including Japanese encephalitis, Marburg virus, Spanish flu, and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, have been named for the geographic areas in which they first appeared or were identified. The WHO has not publicly proposed changing any of these names.
Monkeypox was first named in 1958 when research monkeys in Denmark were observed to have a “smallpox-like” disease, although they are not considered the animal reservoir.
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The WHO said it was also opening up a way for the public to propose new names for monkeypox, but didn’t say when a new name would be announced.
To date, more than 31,000 cases of monkeypox have been identified worldwide since May, most of them outside Africa. Monkeypox has been endemic in parts of central and west Africa for decades and was not known to trigger large outbreaks outside of the continent until May.
The WHO declared the global spread of monkeypox an international emergency in July, and the US declared its own epidemic a national emergency earlier this month.
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Outside of Africa, 98% of cases occur in men who have sex with men. With a limited supply of vaccines available worldwide, authorities are scrambling to stop monkeypox before it becomes established as a new disease.
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https://abc13.com/renaming-monkeypox-virus-world-health-organization-news/12121213/ Renaming monkeypox: The World Health Organization plans to rename the virus over stigma concerns