Monkeypox to be renamed amid racism claims

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised monkeypox to be called ‘mpox’ after reports of racism and language stigma emerged following the latest outbreak.

Global health experts have announced both ‘monkeypox’ and ‘mpox’ will be used for the next year until the original name is phased out.

Visualization of the coronavirus causing COVID-19

The organisation have 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.’

A group of leading scientists also constructed a position paper in June calling for a ‘neutral non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing’ name, amid concern the current terminology is being used in a racist way.

WHO are responsible for naming new diseases and will only consider renaming existing conditions in ‘exceptional’ circumstances.

Commenting on the announcement, Glenda Bonde, Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the Terrace Higgins Trust said, ‘WHO 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.’

The disease was originally named in 1970 and the virus that causes the disease was discovered in captive monkeys in 1958.

Monkeypox broke out this year and was the first ‘community transmission’ in the UK, with 68,000 people in England having inoculated against the disease. There have been more than 80,000 cases and 55 deaths worldwide, according to WHO data.

Photo by Fusion Medical Animation


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top