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Monkeypox will now be called 'mpox', announces WHO citing 'racism' concerns

WHO said that both names -- mpox and monkeypox -- will be used simultaneously for one year while the monkeypox is phased out.

Monkeypox will now be called 'mpox', announces WHO citing 'racism' concerns

New Delhi: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday (November 28, 2022) announced to rename monkeypox as "mpox", citing concerns the original name of the disease could be construed as "racist". In a statement, the UN health body said that following a series of consultations with global experts, WHO will begin using a new preferred term "mpox" as a synonym for monkeypox. It said that both names will be used simultaneously for one year while the monkeypox is phased out.

"When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatizing language online, in other settings and in some communities was observed and reported to WHO. In several meetings, public and private, a number of individuals and countries raised concerns and asked WHO to propose a way forward to change the name," the UN agency said.

WHO, in accordance with the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) update process, held consultations to gather views from a range of experts, as well as countries and the general public, who were invited to submit suggestions for new names. 

Based on these consultations, and further discussions with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the UN Body recommended the following:

  • Adoption of the new synonym mpox in English for the disease.
     
  • Mpox will become a preferred term, replacing monkeypox, after a transition period of one year. This serves to mitigate the concerns raised by experts about confusion caused by a name change in the midst of a global outbreak. It also gives time to complete the ICD update process and to update WHO publications.  
     
  • The synonym mpox will be included in the ICD-10 online in the coming days. It will be a part of the official 2023 release of ICD-11, which is the current global standard for health data, clinical documentation and statistical aggregation.
     
  • The term “monkeypox” will remain a searchable term in ICD, to match historic information.

Human monkeypox was given its name in 1970

Human monkeypox was given its name in 1970, after the virus that causes the disease was discovered in captive monkeys in 1958. 

As per WHO, the new disease names should be given with the aim to minimize the unnecessary negative impact of names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.

Assigning new names to new and, very exceptionally, to existing diseases is the responsibility of WHO under the International Classification of Diseases and the WHO Family of International Health Related Classifications (WHO-FIC) through a consultative process that includes WHO Member States. ICD is part of the WHO Family of International Health Related Classifications (WHO-FIC).

Number of new monkeypox cases decrease globally

Meanwhile, the WHO said that the number of new weekly monkeypox cases globally has decreased by 5% during the week of November 14 to 20, 2022, as compared to the previous week, with over 2.4 million new cases reported. 

The number of new weekly deaths also decreased by 13%, as compared to the previous week, with about 7,800 fatalities reported. 

As of November 20, 634 million confirmed cases and 6.6 million deaths have been reported globally.

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