The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it is open to renaming monkeypox due to possible racial connotations. The WHO stated their intention to have an open forum which would allow the public to suggest possible names, however they have not announced how they intend to roll this out.
The WHO announced that following a meeting with scientists this week, their aim is to attach a name to monkeypox which will “avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups, and minimize any negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare.”
Several other diseases such as Japanese encephalitis, Marburg virus, Spanish influenza and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome were named after either the destinations they were first discovered in or where they emanated from. At this stage, the WHO has not released a public statement to suggest a name change for any of these diseases.
Monkeypox given its name in 1958 after a group of research monkeys in Denmark were noted to have a “pox-like” disease.
WHO declared the global spread of monkeypox to be an international emergency in July as 31,000 cases have been registered worldwide.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was the one who made the call to classify monkeypox as an international emergency. There was some apprehension amongst UN experts to take this step, but Tedros said he acted as a “tiebreaker” in this case.
The US declared their own national emergency in early August.
“We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” Xavier Becerra, who is head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced at the time.
The Associated News reported that after infections in Africa are removed from statistics, 98% of cases of monkeypox have been detected in men who have sexual intercourse with other men. Only a limited number of vaccines are in circulation just now and authorities are working to stop monkeypox becoming an established disease.
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