The World Health Organization (WHO) as soon as this week plans to rename monkeypox to “MPOX” to remove the alleged discriminatory stigma of the virus.
A large part of the reason for the change is pressure from the Biden White House, which told the international organization that the U.S. could act unilaterally if it was not quickly done.
The administration expressed worry over a possible stigma attached to the name monkeypox, especially among minority communities.
It even blamed the lack of a new name for its faltering vaccination campaign begun over the summer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report almost 30,000 infections in the U.S. after this year’s outbreak.
The WHO is a worldwide coordinator of public health concerns, and its duties include declaring international health emergencies and recommending names for new diseases.
It claims that “a number of individuals and countries” asked the organization to look into changing the name.
After the outbreak emerged in Europe and then swept across the U.S., WHO’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced a possible change in June. He explained that the group is “working with partners and experts from around the world” to find an alternative name for the virus.
WHO to rename 'Monkeypox' to 'MPOX' at Biden admin's request https://t.co/mzZ77NuNxE
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Another WHO representative declared that designating disease names should be accomplished by reducing “the negative impact and avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups.
This announcement was sparked by over two dozen African scientists writing of the urgency of replacing monkeypox with a “non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing” title.
Their open letter was published online and called for a new label for monkeypox that would be “aligned with best practices in the naming of infectious diseases.”
This, they explained further, would minimize negative consequences for countries, regions, economies, and people.
They were joined by other public health experts and LGBT activists who opposed the name designated upon its initial finding in 1958. These activists declared that the designation played to racial stereotypes concerning Africa and hindered the global response to the outbreak.