The World Health Organization has decided: monkeypox will be renamed ‘mpox’, a new preferred name to monkeypox. “After a series of consultations with international experts – announced the UN health agency – WHO will begin to preferentially use the new term ‘mpox’ as a synonym for monkeypox. Both names will be used simultaneously for a year while ‘monkeypox’ will be phased out.”
Reason for the decision? “As the monkeypox outbreak spread earlier this year, racist and stigmatizing language was observed and reported to WHO online, in other contexts and in some communities. In several meetings, public and private, a A number of people and countries have expressed concern and have asked WHO to propose a solution to change the name,” the international body explained.
After the transition period, therefore, mpox will be the only name to refer to monkeypox. This – explains the WHO – to mitigate the concerns raised by experts on the risk of creating confusion with a name change in the midst of a global epidemic. And the time frame of coexistence of the two terms also gives time to complete the process of updating the ICD and WHO publications. In fact, Mpox will be included online in the ICD-10 (that is, in the tenth edition of the international classification of diseases) in the coming days. And it will be part of the official 2023 release of Icd-11. The term ‘monkey pox’ will remain a searchable term in the ICD, to match historical information. The update process has been accelerated, while still following the standard steps.
The naming of new and exceptionally existing diseases is the responsibility of WHO under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the ‘Family of International Health Related Classifications’. This takes place through a consultative process involving WHO member states and in this case has involved representatives from 45 different countries from medical-scientific and classification and statistics committees.
After the collection of opinions from a series of experts and countries, and from public opinion in general, with the invitation to also submit suggestions for the name, there was also a discussion with the general manager Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and then the recommendation to adopt the synonym mpox in English for the disease. This will become the preferred name to refer to monkeypox, which was so named because the virus that causes the disease was discovered in captive monkeys in 1958. The name was first assigned to human monkeypox in 1970, before publication of the ‘ best practices’ for disease naming, published in 2015. According to these guidelines, new names should be given with care to minimize unnecessary negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare and avoiding to cause offense to a cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic group.