The World Health Organization is considering a formal name change for monkeypox in light of concerns about stigma and racism surrounding the virus, which has infected about 1,300 people in more than 20 countries.

More than 30 international scientists said last week that the monkeypox label was discriminatory and stigmatized and needed an “urgent” name change. Current names do not meet WHO guidelines that recommend avoiding geographic area or animal names. ..

This proposal reflects a similar controversy that arose when WHO moved swiftly to rename SARS-CoV-2 after people around the world called it China or Wuhan virus without formal designation. doing. The actual source of monkeypox found in a wide variety of mammals remains unknown.

“In the context of the current global outbreak, continued references and nomenclature to this virus in Africa are not only inaccurate, but also discriminatory and stigmatized,” a group of scientists said online. Said in a letter.

According to a spokeswoman, WHO is consulting with a monkeypox family member, an orthopoxvirus expert, under a more appropriate name. According to joint recommendations from the WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the names of other diseases that violate the guidelines include swine flu.

Disease naming “should be done with the goal of minimizing adverse effects,” a spokesman said in an email, “to cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups. Avoid causing discomfort. “

Monkeypox has been endemic in West and Central Africa for decades, but cases are primarily associated with animal spillover rather than human-to-human transmission. In past outbreaks outside of African countries, such as the United States in 2003, cases were associated with contact with animals carrying the virus or travel to areas where the virus was endemic.

It is still unclear how monkeypox invaded humans in the current outbreak, but the virus has spread through close and intimate contact. This is a change from the previous episode.

Other groups have warned of stigma in communication about monkeypox. In late May, the African Foreign Press Association urged Western media to stop using black photographs to emphasize what the situation would look like in articles about the United States and the United Kingdom. In the weeks that followed, scientists also pointed out that the lesions patients are showing in this current outbreak are often different from those historically recorded in Africa.

“Like any other disease, it can occur in any part of the world, regardless of race or ethnicity, and everyone can suffer. Therefore, race or skin color should be the face of this disease. We believe that it is not. “

Scientists at WHO and other institutions have pointed out that there was little international attention to the virus until it spread to countries other than Africa. A group of 30 scientists said in a letter last week that all cases of monkeypox “should be treated with the same care and urgency as is currently happening in European countries and North America.” rice field.

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