Amid what it called an online barrage of “racist and stigmatizing language” about monkeypox, the World Health Organization said on Monday it will begin using a new preferred term “mpox” as a synonym for the disease.
Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while “monkeypox” is phased out, WHO said in a statement.
“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 agency said. While the group is responsible for naming diseases under a series of international agreements, it said that renaming an existing disease is rare.
The organization consulted expert groups and regulators from 45 countries before making its decision. Monkeypox was given its name in 1970 after the virus that causes the disease was discovered in lab monkeys in 1958, although the natural host is still unknown. Best practices adopted by WHO in 2015 require new disease names to “minimize unnecessary negative impact,” the agency said.
A group of scientists and public health authorities have been calling for the disease to be renamed after the most recent outbreak started in May.