‘Monkeypox’ no more: WHO to use new preferred term ‘mpox’

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The World Health Organization will begin to use “mpox” as the new preferred term for the monkeypox disease, the UN health agency said in a statement on Monday.

Both names will be used simultaneously for a year while “monkeypox” is phased out.

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The name change comes after a series of consultations with global experts, WHO said.

When monkeypox began to break out across the world earlier this year, the health body noticed racist and stigmatizing language online, in other settings and among communities.

WHO also called on the public for help to rename the disease in mid-August after weeks of voicing concern about the name.

Experts previously warned that “monkeypox” could be stigmatizing 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. For instance, there were a number reports of people attacking monkeys over disease fears in Brazil earlier this year.

In several meetings, “a number of individuals and countries raised concerns and asked WHO to propose a way forward to change the name,” the UN agency said.

Under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), WHO is responsible for the naming of new and, in exceptional cases, renaming existing diseases. In accordance with the ICD update process, WHO held consultations to gather views from a range of experts and the general public.

“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,” WHO said on Monday.

The health agency recommends the adoption of the new synonym “mpox” in English for the disease and that it will become a preferred term, replacing monkeypox, after a transition period of one year in an effort to mitigate concerns.

The term “monkeypox” will remain a searchable term in ICD, to match historic information, and the synonym “mpox” will be included in the ICD-10 online in the “coming days,” the WHO statement added.

Usually, the ICD updating process can take up to several years. In this case, the process was accelerated, though following the standard steps.

“The issue of the use of the new name in different languages was extensively discussed. The preferred term mpox can be used in other languages. If additional naming issues arise, these will be addressed via the same mechanism. Translations are usually discussed in formal collaboration with relevant government authorities and the related scientific societies,” WHO clarified.

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