Monkeypox will be renamed following calls for a new ‘non-discriminatory and non-stigmatising’ term, it emerged today. The World Health Organization (WHO) promised a new name for the rash-causing virus, endemic to Africa, would be announced ‘as soon as possible’.
As well as renaming the actual pathogen itself, strains will likely be lettered, such as A or B, to remove any mention of the parts of Africa where they were first spotted.
Over 30 researchers last week signed a position paper stating there was an ‘urgent need’ to change its name given the current outbreak, which has mainly struck gay and bisexual men.
It has already swept the world to strike 45 countries, including Britain, the US, Spain and Portugal.
They wrote: ‘Continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing.’
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, has confirmed the virus will be renamed.
He said: ‘[The] WHO is working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of monkeypox virus, its clades, and the disease it causes.
Naming viruses geographically goes against WHO guidelines because of concerns it may spark abusive backlash or potential racism.
One benefit of ditching geographic terms would be encouraging countries to continue monitoring for and raising the alarm when spotting new diseases, rather than having their name negatively attached to it, the scientists said.
The responsibility of renaming monkeypox actually lies with the International Committee of Taxonomy of Viruses, a committee tasked with formally labelling pathogens.