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World Health Organization Is Renaming Monkeypox Over Fears It's 'Discriminatory'

World Health Organization Is Renaming Monkeypox Over Fears It's 'Discriminatory'

A group of scientists from Africa outlined an ‘urgent need for a non-discriminatory and non-stigmatising’ name for the virus

The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to give monkeypox a new name over concerns the virus' name is discriminatory. 

A group of scientists from Africa wrote a paper that outlined an ‘urgent need for a non-discriminatory and non-stigmatising’ name for the virus. 

The scientists argued that referring to monkeypox as simply an ‘African’ virus is cause for concern, and have instead referred to the virus with the term ‘hMPXV’.

As of 10 June, the WHO has been notified of 1,536 cases of the virus in regions as far-reaching as Europe, the Americas and the Western Pacific regions. 


The scientists wrote: "There is an increasing narrative in the media and among many scientists that are trying to link the present global outbreak to Africa or West Africa, or Nigeria.

"Further, the use of geographical labels for strains of MPXV, specifically, references to the 2022 outbreak as belonging to the 'West African' or 'Western African' clade, strain, or genotype."

Currently, the ‘monkeypox’ name doesn’t fit within WHO guidelines to avoid naming viruses after geographic regions or animal names. 

The group suggested the WHO look at renaming the different strains, and it looks like the organisation is listening.

WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told Bloomberg that the organisation is ‘working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of monkeypox virus, its clades and the disease it causes’.

The proposal to change the name is similar to the controversy to rename Covid-19 after people began referring to it as the China virus or the Whuan virus back when it had no official name.

Monkeypox originally got its name as it was discovered in laboratory monkeys back in 1958 when two outbreaks were identified in monkey colonies. 

The first human case was found in The Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, cases outside of Africa have been liked to travel and imported animals, with infections found in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Australia

Rodents are thought to be the main transmitters of the disease to humans. 

While the world is still reeling from one pandemic, the current monkeypox outbreak may be cause for concern. 

The WHO is planning on holding a meeting on 23 June to determine whether the outbreak should be classified as a public health emergency.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement: “The outbreak of monkeypox is unusual and concerning. 

“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.”

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Science, Health