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Monkeypox Gets a New Name

WHO says name change addresses racist and stigmatizing language online, in other settings

November 28, 2022

The World Health Organization (WHO) today announced a new name for the monkeypox virus.

The agency will begin using a new preferred term “mpox” as a synonym for monkeypox. Both names will be used simultaneously for a year while “monkeypox” is phased out, the WHO said.

“WHO will adopt the term mpox in its communications, and encourages others to follow these recommendations, to minimize any ongoing negative impact of the current name and from adoption of the new name,” the agency said in a statement.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Rationale:  Earlier this year, WHO said it wanted to avoid naming diseases after geographic locations or in a way that could be offensive to any group. During 2021, the organization took a similar approach to renaming and identifying COVID-19 variants (Alpha, Delta, Omicron).
  • Variants:  During August, the WHO announced new names for mpox variants. The WHO’s committee announced the former Congo Basin (Central African) variant as Clade I and the former West African variant will be known as Clade II.
  • Case counts:  Cases have been trending downward since August. In the U.S., there have been 29,248 cases this year in the U.S., including 857 in Pennsylvania.
  • Global perspective:  Globally, there have been 80,899 cases this year, including 79,926 in locations that have not historically reported the virus. There have been 55 deaths globally.
  • On the transition:  “This serves to mitigate the concerns raised by experts about confusion caused by a name change in the midst of a global outbreak," the WHO said.

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