Jun 14, 2022 - World

WHO will rename monkeypox virus to combat racism and stigma

Photo of the word Monkeypox on the screen of a smartphone with the World Health Organization (WHO) logo in the background

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization said Tuesday it will rename the monkeypox virus after concern that it could stoke racism and stigma.

Why it matters: The current name for the virus, which has infected over 1,600 people in 39 countries this year and was first reported in Africa, does not adhere to WHO guidelines that discourage the use of geographic regions or animals, Bloomberg reports.

What they're saying: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing that the WHO 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 big picture: A group of over 30 international scientists called for a name change last week, writing in a letter that "continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing."

  • "The most obvious manifestation of this is the use of photos of African patients to depict the pox lesions in mainstream media in the global north."
  • There is also "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," the letter pointed out.
  • "As any other disease, it can occur in any region in the world and afflict anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity," the letter added. "As such, we believe that no race or skin complexion should be the face of this disease."

Worth noting: The announcement mirrors a similar move after a growing mass of people began associating the coronavirus with China and Chinese people.

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