WHO will adopt the term mpox in its communications, and encourages others to follow these recommendations, to minimize any ongoing negative impact of the current name and from adoption of the new name,” the organization said in a statement.
The organization said that it will use both mpox and monkeypox for a year as the old name is phased out to “mitigate the concerns raised by experts about confusion caused by a name change in the midst of a global outbreak.”
Experts have criticized the disease name as discriminatory and stigmatizing, prompting WHO in August to issue a request for name iideas from the public. The organization said that the process to update a name can take up to several years, but in this case, the process was accelerated, though following the standard steps
The name monkeypox comes from the virus’ discovery in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958, which was before WHO adopted its current method for naming viruses and diseases.
According to the organization’s best practices, a disease name should not include a geographic location, peoples’ names, animal species, food names, terms that incite fear or references to cultures, populations, industries or occupations.
The Biden administration on Monday announced that federal agencies in the U.S. will adopt the name change.
We welcome the change by the World Health Organization,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “We must do all we can to break down barriers to public health, and reducing stigma associated with disease is one critical step in our work to end mpox.”
More than 80,000 cases of monkeypox have been documented globally, with nearly 30,000 of them reported in the U.S. The virus is “transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding,” according to WHO.