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Monkeypox Rebranded by Bridget Ryder

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Monkeypox Rebranded

Soon, monkeypox may no longer be a world health problem—not because transmissions are diminishing, but because the World Health Organisation wants to change the name of the disease. 

Some health experts consider the current name to have problematic connotations. 

In a statement on Friday, August 13th, the WHO explained that the monkeypox virus was named in 1958, “before current best practices in naming diseases and viruses were adopted.” Now, newly-identified viruses should be given names that “avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups, and minimise any negative impact on trade, travel, tourism, or animal welfare,” the organisation explained.

To rename the virus, it is asking the public to weigh in on what it should be called.

A group of global experts convened by the WHO have already agreed that variants of the monkeypox will be labelled with Roman numerals. They also created an open forum where the public is invited to suggest a new moniker for monkeypox. In a letter from June 29th, scientists from around the world called for a new, non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing name for the virus that is endemic in Africa and is now spreading, inexplicably, around the world. They argued that the word ‘monkey’ has often been used as a racist slur and that the animal is associated with the global South. They also point out that the term inaccurately links the disease with the animal: monkeys, in this case, are not its natural host.

Bridget Ryder is Spain-based writer. She has written on politics, environment, and culture for American and international publications. She holds degrees in Spanish and Catholic Studies.

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