Monkeypox, which largely transmits through sexual intercourse between men, hit the U.S. earlier this year and has infected nearly 30,000 Americans, killing six as of Friday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Along with expressing concern for the virus itself, the NYC Health Department also said it is worried about the “inaccurate and stigmatizing label” that comes with the virus’ name.
“Moving forward, the Health Department will refer to the virus as MPV. The previous name is an inaccurate and stigmatizing label for a virus that is primarily affecting a community that has already suffered a long history of bigotry,” the city’s health department said.
According to NYC Health, referring to the virus as monkeypox can keep people from seeking treatment if they contract the virus because of a “stigma.” The health department said it also requested the World Health Organization to change the virus’ name.
NYC Health encouraged “anyone of any sexual orientation or gender identity who is at risk” to get both doses of the monkeypox vaccine at any city-run vaccination site.
While monkeypox is not spread exclusively through sex, the disease is infecting gay men at a far higher rate than any other demographic. The latest data from New York City shows that those who identify as LGBTQ currently make up 2,384 (64%) of the city’s 3,703 monkeypox cases, and men make up 3,466 (94%) of the cases.
According to the CDC, monkeypox can spread through skin to skin contact that often happens through hugging, kissing, extended face-to-face contact, and sexual intercourse. Symptoms include fever, headache, cough, sore throat, and nasal congestion. The disease can also cause painful rashes and blisters.