WHO promises nothing ‘ridiculous’ as public pitches ideas to rename monkeypox

Poxy McPoxface, TRUMP-22 or Mpox: these are some of the ideas sent by the public to the World Health Organization in their search for a new name for monkeypox.

Disease names are often chosen behind closed doors by a technical committee, but this time the WHO has decided to open the process to the public. After a slow start, dozens of presentations have now been made from a variety of contributors, including academics, doctors and an activist from the gay community.

They range from the technical (OPOXID-22, submitted by Harvard Medical School ER doctor Jeremy Faust) to the ridiculous (Poxy McPoxface, submitted by Andrew Yi in allusion to Boaty McBoatface, almost the name of a British polar research after a public hearing). vote on the election).

Pressure is mounting for a new name for the disease, in part because critics say it is misleading, since monkeys are not the original host animal. A group of leading scientists wrote a position paper in June calling for a name that would be “neutral, non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing” amid fears the name could be used in a racist way.

Until this year, monkeypox has spread mainly only in a handful of countries in West and Central Africa.

“It is very important that we find a new name for monkeypox because this is the best practice so as not to offend an ethical group, a region, a country, an animal, etc.,” WHO spokeswoman Dr. Fadela Chaib.

“The WHO is very concerned about this issue and we want to find a name that is not stigmatizing,” he added without giving a timeline.

One of the most popular presentations so far is Mpox, presented by Samuel Miriello, director of a RÉZO men’s health organization that is already using the name in its outreach campaigns in Montreal, Canada.

“When you remove the images of the monkeys, people seem to understand more quickly that there is an emergency that needs to be taken seriously,” he told Reuters.

Another proposal, TRUMP-22, seemed to refer to former US President Donald Trump, who used the controversial term “Chinese virus” for the novel coronavirus, though its author said it stood for “2022 Toxic Eruption of Unrecognized Mysterious Origin.”

Submissions mocking the gay community had previously been posted but were later removed from the WHO site.

The WHO is mandated to assign new names to existing diseases under the International Classification of Diseases. He has already renamed the variants or clades of the monkeypox virus, changing them from African regions to Roman numerals.

The WHO said it would decide between the proposals “based on their scientific validity, their acceptability, their pronounceability (and) whether they can be used in different languages.”

“I’m sure we won’t come up with a ridiculous name,” Chaib said.

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 and was named after the animal that first showed symptoms. The WHO declared the current outbreak a public health emergency last month after reporting more than 32,000 cases in more than 80 countries.

Reporting by Emma Farge and Jennifer Rigby; Edited by Nick Macfie

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