The World Health Organization stated on Tuesday that it would look into changing the name of the monkeypox virus.
The director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at a media briefing that the global public health organization was “working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of monkeypox virus.”
His statement follows a call put out by 29 scientists from Africa, Europe, and the United States, on virological.org, an online discussion forum dedicated to virus genomes.
The authors of the post claimed there is an “urgent need for a non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing nomenclature for monkeypox virus.”
They argued that the virus is associated with Africa in the public consciousness because “the international media and scientific literature [assert] that [monkeypox] is endemic in people in some African countries.”
They point out that outbreaks in Africa before 2022 occurred from animal spillover to humans, with few instances of human-to-human transmission, unlike the current outbreak, which has spread between people since the initial infection.
“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,” wrote the scientists. “The most obvious manifestation of this is the use of photos of African patients to depict the pox lesions in mainstream media in the global north.”
At the end of their post, the scientists mentioned that they were already in “advanced discussion” with the WHO about instituting a name change. They proposed “hMPXV.”
However, they note that an official name change is ultimately within the purview of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, a branch of the International Union of Microbiological Societies.