SWITZERLAND: The World Health Organisation is weighing an official name change for Monkeypox, in light of concerns about stigma and racism surrounding the virus that has infected almost 1,300 people in more than two dozen countries.
More than 30 international scientists said last week that the Monkeypox label is discriminatory and stigmatising, and there’s an “urgent” need to rename it. The current name doesn’t fit with WHO guidelines that recommend avoiding geographic regions and animal names, a spokesperson said.
The proposal echoes a similar controversy that erupted when the WHO moved quickly to rename SARS-CoV-2 after people around the world referred to it as the China or Wuhan virus in the absence of an official designation. The actual animal source of Monkeypox, which has been found in a wide variety of mammals, remains unknown.
“In the context of the current global outbreak, continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatising,” the scientists’ group said in a letter online. The WHO is consulting experts in orthopoxviruses — the family to which Monkeypox belongs — on more appropriate names, a spokesperson said. Naming diseases “should be done with the aim to minimise the negative impact,” the spokesperson said in an email, “and avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.”
Monkeypox has been endemic in west and central Africa for decades, but cases have primarily been associated with spillover from animals, rather than human-to-human transmission. In past outbreaks outside African countries, such as in the US in 2003, cases were linked to contact with animals carrying the virus or travel to regions where it is endemic.
– THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD