The World Health Organization has finally decided on a new name for monkeypox. After “months of consultations” the preferred term for this disease will now be “mpox.”
Although first emerging around half a century ago monkeypox rarely spread outside Africa until earlier this year. Initially appearing in the United Kingdom in May, the disease quickly spread to dozens of countries. To date, there have been over 80,000 confirmed cases spanning more than 100 countries.
Ever since this year’s outbreak began infectious disease experts have called for the disease’s name to be changed. The name monkeypox has been considered a misnomer since the virus does not originate in monkeys, and many others have suggested the name’s historically racist connotations are painful for communities of color.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the calls for a name change back in June, and slowly moved through the necessary motions over the rest of 2022 to formally rename the disease. There was even public call-out for new names in August, leading to suggestions that included Goblinpox, Lightpox, Humanpox, MOVID-22, and Poxy McPox.
“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,” the organization recently announced 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 new name for the disease will be “mpox.” According to the WHO, a transition period of 12 months will take place to update publications and mitigate confusion as the term “monkeypox” is completely phased out of use.
This is the first time the WHO has officially changed the name of an already circulating disease. There has been increasing attention on disease names over recent years as it has become widely understood that social, geographical, or zoological harms can be caused by stigmatizing titles.
Early in 2020, after the novel coronavirus responsible for our current pandemic first emerged, the WHO grappled with what to name this new disease. Upon finally deciding on COVID-19 as the preferred name WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted, “we had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease.”
Source: World Health Organization