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The World Health Organization announced on Tuesday that it would rename the monkeypox virus, which has infected more than 1,600 people in 39 countries this year, after a group of scientists raised concerns that the name could be stigmatizing.
“WHO is also working with partners and experts around the world to change the name of the monkeypox virus, its clades and the disease it causes,” the director-general of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday. health, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during a press briefing. “We will make an announcement on the new names as soon as possible.”
The announcement comes after a group of more than 30 international scientists urged the health community to change the name of the virus last week.
“The prevailing perception in the international media and scientific literature is that MPXV is endemic in people from certain African countries. However, it is well established that almost all MPXV outbreaks in Africa prior to the 2022 outbreak were the result of fallout from animals to humans and there have only rarely been reports of sustained human-to-human transmissions,” the scientists wrote on June 10.
“In the context of the current global epidemic, the continued reference and nomenclature of this virus as African is not only inaccurate, but also discriminatory and stigmatizing.”
The WHO lists two known clades of monkeypox on its website, “one identified in West Africa (WA) and one in the Congo Basin (CB) region”.
The group of scientists wrote that the use of this nomenclature is “contrary to the best practice of avoiding geographic locations in the nomenclature of diseases and groups of diseases”.
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According to the CDC, scientists first discovered monkeypox during two outbreaks of a smallpox-like disease in monkeys at a research center in Denmark in 1958. The first human case was discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970.
The largest current outbreak is in the UK, where health authorities have detected 470 cases.
Human-to-human transmission of the virus mainly occurs through direct contact with infected people or contaminated surfaces.
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Ghebreyesus also said the WHO would convene an emergency meeting next week to determine whether the spread of monkeypox should be considered a global public health emergency.
“The monkeypox outbreak is unusual and concerning,” Ghebreyesus said Tuesday. “For this reason, I have decided to convene the emergency committee under the international health regulations next week to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.”
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The CDC has reported 65 cases of monkeypox in the United States, including 15 in California and 11 in New York.
Monkeypox has similar symptoms to smallpox, but is milder. Infected people usually develop flu-like symptoms followed by a rash that develops into lesions.
The WHO has had a rough ride in recent years, facing accusations that it failed to maintain transparency from China as the COVID pandemic swept from Wuhan to the world, then accusations that she reportedly ignored the Greek letter Xi when naming variants of the virus to avoid offending China’s communist leader, President Xi Jinping.
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