The name monkeypox is “discriminatory,” scientists say


The name monkeypox is "discriminatory," scientists say

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Monkeypox will get a new name, the World Health Organization said after a group of researchers advocated “non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing nomenclature.”

A recent international outbreak of the rare but potentially serious viral disease, historically endemic to central and west Africa, had no connection to those regions, and the naming monkeypox unfairly links transmission to the continent, biologists and other scientists said who wrote a post on the online forum Virological on June 10th. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus confirmed at a briefing on Tuesday that the agency would announce the new names “as soon as possible”.

“In the context of the current global outbreak, the continued reference to and nomenclature of this virus as African is not only inaccurate but also discriminatory and stigmatizing,” the researchers wrote, paraphrasing the media’s use of photos of African patients from previous epidemics to represent the smallpox lesions commonly associated with the disease.

What is monkeypox, the rare virus now confirmed in the US and Europe?

According to data submitted to WHO by 39 countries, more than 1,600 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed this year and nearly 1,500 more are suspected. Most of those countries – 32 – had previously reported no infections, raising concern in the global health community that the virus is not behaving as it has typically done in the past.

Last week, the White House said at least 45 cases have been identified so far in 15 states and the District of Columbia, and that the numbers are expected to surpass those of a 2003 outbreak, making it the largest the United States has faced.

Monkeypox is known to spread through human contact with animals such as rodents or primates, but the virus has spread more widely through human-to-human transmission this year than previously reported.

A number of US patients are men who have sex with men, prompting officials to warn of a suspected link to such contact. The risk to the public remains low, authorities say.

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The scientists propose the name hMPXV, which begins with an “h” to denote the human version of the virus.

The group also suggested classifying the monkeypox lineage by letter and number based on when outbreaks are discovered, rather than location, which stigmatizes some countries or regions for finding and reporting a virus that originated elsewhere could.

In Europe, where the virus has taken root, cases have been reported in the UK, Germany and Portugal.

Infections usually last two to four weeks, starting with flu-like ones Symptoms and swollen lymph nodes. Fluid-filled bumps — or “pox” — then pop up on the skin. Recent cases of monkeypox often involve genital rashes that can be mistaken for syphilis or herpes, officials say.

This year 72 deaths were reported, all in countries where monkeypox had previously been transmitted. The UN health agency is reviewing news reports from Brazil of a death caused by monkeypox, Tedros said.

The agency also advises against mass vaccination against the virus, which can be treated due to limited clinical data and insufficient global supplies of antiviral drugs and vaccines stockpiled in the event of a smallpox outbreak. WHO is developing a plan to make vaccines and treatments more accessible.

“The global outbreak of monkeypox is clearly unusual and worrisome,” Tedros said.

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