WHO asks public for help in renaming monkeypox

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The Guardian

The World Health Organization has asked for help from the public in coming up with a less stigmatising designation for monkeypox.

The UN health agency has for weeks voiced concern about the name of the disease that began making global headlines in May.

Experts have warned the name can be stigmatising to the primates it was named after, but who play little role in its spread, and to the African continent the animals are often associated with.

Recently in Brazil, for instance, there have been reported cases of people attacking monkeys over fear of the disease.

“Human monkeypox was given its name before current best practices in naming diseases,” the WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib told reporters in Geneva.

“We want really to find a name that is not stigmatising,” she added, saying the public consultation could be accessed through a dedicated website where anyone can propose a new name.

Monkeypox received its name because the virus was originally identified in monkeys kept for research in Denmark in 1958, but the disease is found in a number of animals, and most frequently in rodents.

The disease was first discovered in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the spread among humans since then mainly limited to certain west and central African countries where it is endemic.

But in May, cases of the disease, which causes fever, muscular aches and large boil-like skin lesions, began spreading rapidly around the world, mainly among men who have sex with men.

More than 31,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide since the start of the year and 12 people have died, according to the WHO, which has designated the outbreak a global health emergency.

While the virus can jump from animals to humans, WHO experts say the recent global spread is due to close-contact transmission between humans.

The UN health agency announced last week that a group of experts it had convened had already agreed on new names for monkeypox virus variants, or clades.

Until now the two main variants have been named after the geographic regions where they were known to circulate, the Congo Basin and west Africa.

The experts agreed to rename them using Roman numerals instead, calling them Clade I and Clade II. A subvariant of Clade II, now known as Clade IIb, is seen as the main culprit behind the ongoing global outbreak.

August 16, 2022 at 07:55PM Agence France-Presse

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