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Monkeypox Could Get a New Name to Address Stigmatization, Discrimination

August 17, 2022

The World Health Organization (WHO) is looking for a new name for the monkeypox virus.

The organization recently announced new names for monkeypox variants, as well as an “open consultation” for a new disease name for the virus. The initiative aims to discourage harmful perceptions stemming from the current name.

“Current best practice is that newly-identified viruses, related disease, and virus variants should be given names with the aim to avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups, and minimize any negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare,” the organization said.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Rationale:  The initiative to rename monkeypox continues WHO’s effort to avoid naming diseases after geographic locations and in a way that could be offensive to any group. During 2021, the organization took a similar approach to renaming and identifying variants of interest and of concern.
  • Roman numerals:  The WHO’s committee announced the former Congo Basin (Central African) variant will be known as Clade I and the former West African variant will be known as Clade II.
  • U.S. Cases:  The are 12,689 confirmed monkeypox/orthopoxvirus cases in the U.S., including 353 in Pennsylvania.
  • Where to submit names:  The agency is accepting proposals online.
  • Quotable:  “The monkeypox virus was named upon first discovery in 1958, before current best practices in naming diseases and viruses were adopted,” the WHO said in its announcement.

Last week, the federal government announced it issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the JYNNEOS vaccine and had taken additional steps to bolster the vaccine supply.

“In recent weeks the monkeypox virus has continued to spread at a rate that has made it clear our current vaccine supply will not meet the current demand,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, MD.

HAP will continue to monitor the latest public health developments and provide updates to members. More information about the WHO announcement is available online.