Monkeypox: Virus to be given a new name – World Health Organization.

Monkeypox could get the strictest health warning the WHO can give (Image: Reuters)

Monkeypox is supposed to be called something new – but it’s unclear exactly how.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed it is working on a different name for the virus, fearing the current terminology is discriminatory.

The UN agency will also discuss whether to give the virus the highest health warning classification as concerns continue to mount.

The WHO said yesterday it would hold an emergency meeting next week to decide whether to classify the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The disease was generally confined to west and central Africa for decades, until well over 1,000 cases were detected in dozens of countries outside the region.

WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the outbreak “unusual and worrying” when announcing the convening of the Emergency Committee on Thursday, June 23.

If classified as PHEIC, it would currently be only the third disease in this category worldwide, after Covid-19 and polio.

dr Tedros added that “WHO is also working with partners and experts from around the world to change the name of the monkeypox virus… and the disease it causes.”

Health workers check passengers arriving from abroad for monkeypox symptoms at the terminal of Anna International Airport in Chennai, June 3, 2022. (Photo by Arun SANKAR/AFP) (Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Passengers arriving from abroad are checked for monkeypox symptoms in Chennai, India (Image: AFP)

‘We will announce the new names as soon as possible.’

The move comes after more than 30 scientists called for a new name last week.

They wrote that there was “an urgent need for a non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing nomenclature for monkeypox.”

The group added: “In the context of the current global outbreak, this virus’s continued reference and nomenclature to being in Africa is not only inaccurate, but also discriminatory and stigmatizing.”

According to WHO this year to yesterday there have been 1,600 confirmed and 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox in 39 countries with 72 deaths.

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While monkeypox was first discovered in macaques, many cases are believed to be transmitted to humans from rodents.

Normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a blistering, chickenpox-like rash.

But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week current cases don’t always present with flu-like symptoms and rashes are sometimes confined to certain areas.

Global experts will attend next week’s committee meeting, but the WHO Director-General will make the final decision on whether the outbreak merits the PHEIC label.

Giving him one would help speed up research and funding.

Experts have been urging the organization to act faster for several weeks after criticizing the agency’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic.

To combat the spread, the WHO recommends “best public health tools, including surveillance, contact tracing and isolation of infected patients”.

The virus spreads through close contact and many cases have been detected in the UK in men who have sex with other men.

It is believed to be fatal in about 3-6% of cases, according to the WHO, although no deaths outside of Africa have yet been reported in this outbreak.

dr Tedros said it was time to consider stepping up the response given the virus was behaving unusually, more countries were affected and international coordination was needed.

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MORE: The number of people with monkeypox in the UK rises to 470 Monkeypox: Virus to be given a new name – World Health Organization.

Justin Scacco

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