Monkeypox: WHO Settles on New Name for the Virus

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The World Health Organization announced Monday that “mpox” is now the preferred name for monkeypox.

“Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out,” the organization said.

The Biden administration said they “welcome the change” and the US will use the mpox name “from this point forward.”

Monkeypox was named in 1970, more than a decade after the virus that causes the disease was discovered in captive monkeys, the organization said. But monkeypox probably didn’t start in monkeys — its origin is still unknown — and the virus can be found in several other kinds of animals. The name was created before WHO published best practices for naming diseases in 2015.

Scientists and experts have pushed since the start of the recent outbreak to change the name to avoid discrimination and stigma that could steer people away from testing and vaccination. Stigma has been an ongoing concern as the outbreak has largely affected men who have sex with men. In the United States, Black and Hispanic people have been disproportionately affected, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.

“We must do all we can to break down barriers to public health, and reducing stigma associated with disease is one critical step in our work to end mpox,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

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