The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) announced on Tuesday that it will officially rename the monkeypox to address concerns about the stigma and racism associated with the word.
Monkeypox has thus far infected over 1,600 people in more than two dozen countries, first breaking out in the United States this past May in Massachusetts and possibly having originated in Canada. W.H.O. director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on Tuesday that the organization will be “working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of monkeypox virus, its clades, and the disease it causes.”
No new name has yet been announced. Current W.H.O. guidelines omit viruses from being named after animals and geographic regions.
The name change comes after 30 scientists signed an open letter last week arguing for an “urgent need for a non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing nomenclature for monkeypox virus.”
“In the context of the current global outbreak, continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing,” said the letter.