WHO says monkeypox will be renamed
The World Health Organization says it is working with experts to find a new name for monkeypox.
It comes after more than 30 scientists wrote last week about the “urgent need for a non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing name” for the virus and the disease it causes. The continued reference to the virus as African is both inaccurate and discriminatory, they said.
About 1,600 cases of the disease have been recorded worldwide in recent weeks. While 72 deaths have been reported in countries where monkeypox was already endemic, none were seen in the 32 newly affected countries like the UK.
As of the last count on June 12, there were 452 confirmed cases in England, 12 in Scotland, 2 in Northern Ireland and 4 in Wales. The World Health Organization said it would hold an emergency meeting next week to decide whether to classify the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern – the highest alert the agency has of the United Nations can trigger.
The only other diseases where this has happened in the past are Swine Flu, Polio, Ebola, Zika and Covid. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said: “The monkeypox outbreak is unusual and worrying.
“For this reason, I have decided to convene the Emergency Committee next week, under international health regulations, to assess whether this outbreak is a public health emergency of international concern.”
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the same virus family as smallpox, although it is much less severe.
A new name suggested by scientists is hMPXV, but we’ll have to wait to find out what the WHO thinks about it. Infections are generally mild and the risk to the general population is low, but the UK government has purchased smallpox vaccine stocks to protect itself from more cases.
The virus has spread around the world in an unusual way in recent months. Previous outbreaks have mainly been confined to parts of Africa where rodents, not monkeys, are considered the main animal host.
The infection causes a rash that looks a bit like chickenpox. The virus can be spread when someone is in close contact with an infected person.
It has not previously been described as a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be passed on through close contact. Anyone who has the virus should refrain from sex while having symptoms.