WHO plans to rename Monkeypox due to stigma issues – NBC Chicago

The World Health Organization said it was holding an open forum to rename the disease monkeypox after some critics raised concerns the name could be derogatory or have racist connotations.

In a statement on Friday, the UN health agency said it had also renamed two families, or clades, of the virus, using Roman numerals instead of geographic areas, to avoid stigma. The version of the disease formerly known as the Congo Basin will now be known as Clade one or I and the West African clade will be known as Clade two or II.

The WHO said the decision was taken following a meeting of scientists this week and in line with current best practice for naming diseases, which aims to “avoid offending any cultural, social, national, regional , occupational or ethnic, and to minimize any negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare”.

Many other diseases, including Japanese encephalitis, Marburg virus, Spanish flu, and Middle East respiratory syndrome, have been named after the geographic areas where they arose or were identified. The WHO has not publicly suggested changing any of these names.

Monkeypox was first named in 1958 when research monkeys in Denmark were observed to have a “pox-like” disease, although they were not thought to be the animal reservoir.

The WHO said it also opens up the possibility for the public to suggest new names for monkeypox, but did not say when a new name would be announced.

To date, more than 31,000 cases of monkeypox have been identified worldwide since May, with the majority outside Africa. Monkeypox has been endemic in parts of central and west Africa for decades and was not known to trigger large outbreaks beyond the continent until May.

The WHO declared the global spread of monkeypox an international emergency in July and the United States declared its own outbreak a national emergency earlier this month.

Outside of Africa, 98% of cases are in men who have sex with men. With only a limited global supply of vaccines, authorities are racing to stop monkeypox before it becomes a new disease.

News4’s Jackie Bensen reports that the attack brings back bad memories of how gay people were stigmatized during the early years of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

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