WHO renames monkeypox as 'mpox' to curb racist language around disease

Signs attract visitors to a tent where the mpox vaccine is being given during the Tower Grove Pride in St. Louis in September. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Signs attract visitors to a tent where the mpox vaccine is being given during the Tower Grove Pride in St. Louis in September. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 28 (UPI) -- The World Health Organization said Monday it has decided to rename monkeypox as "mpox" to curb "racist and stigmatizing language" surrounding the disease.

The WHO said in a statement that it decided on mpox as the preferred term after a "series of consultations" with global experts to come up with a new name after a number of countries raised concerns about monkeypox.


Both mpox and monkeypox will be used by the WHO for a year as the former term is phased out, according to the organization, which is responsible for assigning names to global diseases.

"This serves to mitigate the concerns raised by experts about confusion caused by a name change in the midst of a global outbreak."

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Mpox will be included in the International Classification of Diseases online in the coming days and will be part of the official 2023 release of the ICD-11, the global standard for health data.

However, the WHO said that the term "monkeypox" will remain a searchable term in the future to match historical information.

"Usually, the ICD updating process can take up to several years. In this case, the process was accelerated, though following the standard steps," the WHO said.


Monkeypox was first given its name in 1970 after the virus was first identified in captive monkeys in 1958.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that there have been 29,248 cases in the United States with 14 deaths amid this year's outbreak.

The organization first announced it was seeking public input on the name change in August, when it received suggestions ranging from Poxy McPox and bigpox to Orthopox MPV22.

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At the time, WHO said that its process for renaming the disease consisted of considering three aspects: the name of the disease itself, the virus that causes the disease and the virus variants, or clades.

A consensus was reached to refer to the Congo Basin clade as Clade I and the West African clade as Clade II.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a speech in September that declines in the number of mpox cases in North America and Europe shows that the current outbreak of the virus "can be eliminated" in some parts of the world.

"It's encouraging to see that in some countries in Europe and North America we now see a sustained decline in cases, demonstrating the effectiveness of public health interventions and community engagement to track infections and prevent transmission," Ghebreyesus said at the time.


"These signs confirm what we have said consistently since the beginning: that with the right measures, this is an outbreak that can be stopped."

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