The World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to rename monkeypox “as soon as possible,” claiming the existing name is racist and discriminatory to Africa.
More than 30 researchers have “signed a position paper stating there was an ‘urgent need’ to change its name given the current outbreak, which has mainly struck gay and bisexual men,” the Daily Mail reported.
“They wrote: ‘Continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing,'” the U.K. paper said.
Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, confirmed the virus will be renamed, saying the organization is “working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of monkeypox virus, its clades, and the disease it causes.”
“We will make announcements about the new names as soon as possible,” he said.
The virus is endemic to central and western Africa but is currently spreading to at least 40 countries across the globe. Symptoms include “a fever, intense headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, swollen lymph nodes and a skin rash or lesions,” the WHO says on its website. “Lesions can be flat or slightly raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid, and can then crust, dry up and fall off. The number of lesions on one person can range from a few to several thousand” and are usually “concentrated on the face, palms of the hands and soles of the feet” but can spread to the mouth, genitals and eyes.
Currently, the virus is split into two types, with the names designating where they were found, such as the West African variant and Central African or Congo Basin strains.
Now, scientists want to use numbers, such as MPXV1 and MPXV2, to differentiate the variants.
The move is similar to what the WHO did with COVID-19, which had been referred to as the Wuhan virus because of where it was first found. The WHO designated the name of the virus as SARS-CoV-2.
“Other groups have warned of stigma in communication about monkeypox,” Bloomberg reported. “In late May, the Foreign Press Association of Africa asked western media to stop using photos of Black people to highlight what the condition looks like in stories about the US or UK. In the weeks since, scientists have also raised the point that the lesions patients are presenting with in this current outbreak have, in many cases, been distinct from what’s been historically documented in Africa.”
“As any other disease, it can occur in any region in the world and afflict anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity,” the group wrote. “As such, we believe that no race or skin complexion should be the face of this disease.”
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.