West News Wire: The decades-old animal disease’s original name, monkeypox, has been changed to mpox by the World Health Organization because to concerns that it can be interpreted as discriminatory and racist.

Monkeypox will continue to go by both names for the upcoming year as the previous nomenclature is phased away, according to a statement released by the U.N. health agency on Monday.

The “racist and stigmatizing rhetoric” that developed after monkeypox spread to more than 100 nations disturbed WHO, according to their statement. Numerous people and nations, according to the statement, asked the group “to offer a way forward to change the name.”

Soon after the United Nations agency proclaimed the spread of monkeypox to be a worldwide threat in August, WHO started contacting experts about renaming the illness.

To date, there have been more than 80,000 cases identified in dozens of countries that had not previously reported the smallpox-related disease. Until May, monkeypox, a disease that is thought to originate in animals, was not known to trigger large outbreaks beyond central and west Africa.

Outside of Africa, nearly all cases have been in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men. Scientists believe monkeypox triggered outbreaks in Western countries after spreading via sex at two raves in Belgium and Spain. Vaccination efforts in rich countries, along with targeted control interventions, have mostly brought the disease under control after it peaked in the summer.

In Africa, the disease mainly affects people in contact with infected animals such as rodents and squirrels. The majority of monkeypox-related deaths have been in Africa, where there have been almost no vaccines available.

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U.S. health officials have warned it may be impossible to eliminate the disease there, warning it could be a continuing threat mainly for gay and bisexual men for years to come.

Mpox was first named monkeypox in 1958 when research monkeys in Denmark were observed to have a “pox-like” disease, although they are not thought to be the disease’s animal reservoir.

Although WHO has named numerous new diseases shortly after they emerged, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS and COVID-19, this appears to be the first time the agency has attempted to rechristen a disease decades after it was first named.

Numerous other diseases, including Japanese encephalitis, German measles, Marburg virus and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome have been named after geographic regions, which could now be considered prejudicial. WHO has not suggested changing any of those names.

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