Monkeypox renamed ‘because of racism’

Global health experts are to rename monkeypox after “racism and stigmatising language” emerged following the latest outbreak.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the disease will be referred to as “mpox” as its preferred term.

Both names will be used simultaneously while the term “monkeypox” is phased out.

The international health body said in a statement: “When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatising language online, in other settings and in some communities was observed and reported to WHO.

“Following a series of consultations with global experts, WHO will begin using a new preferred term ‘mpox’ as a synonym for monkeypox. Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out.”

WHO is responsible for naming new diseases and “very exceptionally” will rename existing conditions.

Commenting on the announcement, Glenda Bonde, director of equity, diversity and inclusion at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “The World Health Organization has listened and now it’s acting.

“Language has a big impact in perpetuating stigma and discrimination, and the switch to using mpox is the right one.

“The name ‘monkeypox’ plays into racial and racist stereotypes and is to the detriment of the public health response.”

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Human monkeypox was first given its name in 1970. The virus that causes the disease was discovered in captive monkeys in 1958.

This year saw the first “community transmission” of the disease in the UK.

Some 3,720 cases have been identified in the UK since the start of May.

The UK Health Security Agency has said it is seeing fewer and fewer cases reported.

NHS England said some 68,000 people have been inoculated against the disease with the smallpox vaccine since the outbreak began in May.

It is now launching a campaign offering a second vaccination to those eligible who have already had their first jab.

Common signs of infection include the development of a new rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes.