Monkeypox is to be rebranded as ‘mpox’ after global health experts said the name had racist connotations and could lead to stigmatisation.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the term monkeypox would be phased out over the coming year.
It follows a forum in the summer in which two families of monkeypox – the Congo Basin and West African clades – were renamed as Clade I and Clade II.
At the time, the WHO said the decision was to ‘avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups, and minimise any negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare.’
In a statement about the move to ‘mpox’, the international health body said: “When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatising language online, in other settings and in some communities was observed and reported to WHO.
“Following a series of consultations with global experts, WHO will begin using a new preferred term ‘mpox’ as a synonym for monkeypox. Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out.”
WHO will ‘very exceptionally’ rename conditions
Human monkeypox was first given its name in 1970 after the virus that causes the disease was discovered in captive monkeys in 1958.
The WHO is responsible for naming new diseases and ‘very exceptionally’ will rename existing conditions.
In 2015, it released new guidelines entitled “Best Practices for the Naming of New Human Infectious Diseases,” in which it advised that diseases should no longer be named after places, specific people such as “Creutzfeld-Jakob disease’ or Alzheimer’s, occupations, such as Legionnaires disease, or animals, such as swine flu.
During the pandemic, the body renamed several variants, including the Kent variant, which became Alpha, the South African variant, which became Beta, and the Indian Variant, which became Delta.
Some 3,720 cases have been identified in the UK since the start of May, although the UK Health Security Agency has said it is seeing fewer and fewer cases reported.
NHS England said some 68,000 people have been inoculated against the disease with the smallpox vaccine since the outbreak began in May.
It is now launching a campaign offering a second vaccination to those eligible who have already had their first jab.
Common signs of infection include the development of a new rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes.