Wednesday, May 29, 2024

WHO asks public for help with monkeypox name change

The World Health Organization has invited the public to find a new name for monkeypox, calling for help in coming up with a less stigmatising designation for the fast-spreading disease amid concerns about the name.

Experts warn the name can be stigmatising to the primates it was named after, but who play little role in its spread, and to the African continent that the animals are often associated with.

Recently in Brazil, for instance, there have been reported cases of people attacking monkeys over disease fears.

“Human monkeypox was given its name before current best practices in naming diseases,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

“We want really to find a name that is not stigmatising,” she added. The consultation is now open to everyone through a dedicated website.

“It’s very important we find a new name for monkeypox because this is best practice not to create any offence to an ethnic group, a region, a country, an animal etc,” Chaib said.

Monkeypox received its name because the virus was originally identified in monkeys kept for research in Denmark in 1958, but the disease is found in a number of animals, and most frequently in rodents.

The disease was first discovered in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the spread among humans since then mainly limited to certain West and Central African countries where it is endemic.

But in May, cases of the disease, which causes fever, muscular aches and large boil-like skin lesions, began spreading rapidly around the world, mainly among men who have sex with men.

Worldwide, over 31,000 cases have been confirmed since the start of the year, and 12 people have died, according to the WHO, which has designated the outbreak a global health emergency.

The recent global spread is due to close-contact transmission between humans, according to WHO.

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