Monkey pox will soon no longer be called monkey pox
The WHO probably wants to follow a demand from scientists and find a new name for the monkeypox virus. A “non-discriminatory” label is being sought that also takes into account new developments and the spread of the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is working with experts on a new name for the smallpox virus. Proposals for new names should be submitted as soon as possible, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva. 30 scientists previously called for a “non-discriminatory” and “non-stigmatizing” name.
According to experts, the international media and the scientific literature are of the opinion that smallpox is endemic in some African countries, ie localized. “However, it has been proven that almost all outbreaks of monkeypox in Africa before the outbreak in 2022 were the result of animal-to-human transmission,” they write, adding that there are rare reports of sustained human-to-human transmission. Case numbers and epidemiological patterns suggest that the current global epidemic is sustained by human-to-human transmission.
Previously, the description of the virus as of African origin was “not only inaccurate, but also discriminatory and stigmatizing.” This is most evident in the use of photographs of African patients to depict smallpox in many media. Although the origins of the new global smallpox outbreak are still unknown, “there is growing evidence that the most likely scenario is that intercontinental, cryptic transmission to humans has taken longer than previously thought,” the researchers said. The current global epidemic should therefore not be linked to Africa, West Africa or Nigeria.
“Breaking with Names and Historical Associations”
Until now, the monkey pox virus has divided into the West African and Central African or Congo basins. The letter proposes a new classification, “which is non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing and draws on best practices for naming infectious diseases”. The aim is to minimize unnecessary negative impacts on nations, geographical regions, economies and peoples and to take into account the evolution and spread of the virus. One must seize the opportunity “to break with the name of smallpox and the historical associations associated with that name.” A clear and appropriate name for the virus causing this epidemic would also facilitate communication without further negative connotations.
Smallpox is a less dangerous cousin of smallpox that was eradicated about 40 years ago. The disease begins with a high fever and rapidly progresses to a crust rash. There are vaccines against this disease. The WHO wants to consider declaring an international health emergency due to the growing spread of monkeypox. To date, more than 1,600 cases of monkeypox have been reported to the WHO in 39 countries.