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WHO to rename monkeypox to 'mpox' to reduce prejudice and stigma

The World Health Organisation will phase out its use of the term monkeypox over the next year.

FOLLOWING A SERIES of consultations, the World Health Organisation (WHO) will begin using the new term “mpox” as a synonym for monkeypox in 0rder to combat what it deems as racist and stigmatizing language online.

Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while “monkeypox” is phased out. 

The organisation has said that when the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year a number of individuals and countries raised concerns and asked the WHO to propose a way forward to change the name. 

Human monkeypox was given its name in 1970 after the virus was discovered in captive monkeys in 1958.

Assigning names to diseases is the responsibility of the WHO under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

WHO, in accordance with the ICD, held consultations to gather views from experts and the general public who were invited to submit suggestions for new names.

Based on these consultations, and further discussions with WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO recommended that mpox become a synonym for the disease in the English language.

Mpox will replace monkeypox after a transition period of one year in order mitigate the concerns raised by experts about confusion caused by a name-change in the midst of a global outbreak.

The decision to use ‘mpox’ considered scientific appropriateness, pronounceability, usability in different languages and the ease of retrieval of historical scientific information. 

Subvariants of the disease will also be renamed in line with the WHO’s policy that disease names should minimize negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.  

In August, a group of global experts agreed on new names for monkeypox virus variants, also known as ‘clades’.

The former Congo Basin (Central African) clade was renamed to Clade one (I) and the former West African clade as Clade two (II).

Usually the ICD updating process can take up to several years, the WHO said, but in this case the process was accelerated.

Various advisory bodies were heard during the consultation process, including experts from scientific committees including representatives from 45 countries.  

The issue of the use of the new name in different languages was extensively discussed, the WHO stated.

The preferred term mpox can be used in other languages.

If additional naming issues arise, these will be addressed via the ICD.

Translations are usually discussed in formal collaboration with relevant government authorities and the related scientific societies.

WHO will adopt the term mpox in its communications, and encourages others to follow these recommendations to stop any ongoing negative impact of the current name. 

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