The World Health Organization plans to rename the “monkeypox” virus that has spread across parts of Africa and has cropped up in other parts of the world, apparently because the name could be construed as “racist.”
More than 30 international scientists said last week that the monkeypox label is discriminatory and stigmatizing, and there’s an “urgent” need to rename it. The current name doesn’t fit with WHO guidelines that recommend avoiding geographic regions and animal names, a spokesperson said.
The group of scientists wrote, “In the context of the current global outbreak, continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing.”
The name is derived from when the virus was first discovered in the 1950s, when the disease was first found in a colony of monkeys being used for research - thus, "monkeypox." While the exact source of the virus hasn't yet been identified, the name stuck. The virus has since been found in humans in multiple countries including the U.S., as well as infected rodents, prairie dogs, and other mammals.
Even still, groups have complained that the use of the name "monkeypox" along with photos of infected black people - understandable given the virus' prevalence in African countries - risks "stigmatizing" blacks, making them the "face of the disease."
The new name, a WHO spokesperson said, should “avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.”
Because when dealing with a contagious disease that causes fever, muscle aches, and painful blisters, that’s the most important aspect – the name.