The World Health Organization is weighing an official name change for monkeypox, in light of concerns about stigma and racism surrounding the virus that has infected almost 1,300 people in more than two dozen countries.
More than 30 international scientists said last week that the monkeypox label is discriminatory and stigmatizing, and there's an "urgent" need to rename it. The current name doesn't fit with WHO guidelines that recommend avoiding geographic regions and animal names, a spokesperson said.
The proposal echoes a similar controversy that erupted when the WHO moved quickly to rename SARS-CoV-2 . The actual animal source of monkeypox, which has been found in a wide variety of mammals, remains unknown.
"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," the scientists' group said in a letter online.
The WHO is consulting experts in orthopoxviruses - the family to which monkeypox belongs - on more appropriate names, a spokesperson said.