The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a public call for proposals for a new name for the monkeypox virus, as the present name can come around as stigmatising or racist.
An experts group from the WHO team has already agreed on a new name for the two variants of monkeypox. Earlier, these referred to the place where the variants first appeared (the Congo Basin and West Africa, respectively), but from now on, they will simply be referred to by the Roman numerals I and II.
Still, the WHO also wanted a new name for the virus itself,
The organisation mentioned in the statement, “The monkeypox virus was named upon foremost discovery in 1958 before recent best practices in naming diseases and viruses were adopted.”
At the time, the virus turned up in laboratory monkeys in Denmark, but it is mainly circulating among rodents in Africa.
The current best practice is that newly-traced viruses, related disease(s) & virus variants should be given titles that “avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups & minimise any negative impact on tourism, travel, trade or either animal welfare.”
This, however, was not the case with monkeypox, a group of epidemiologists stated at the end of June. The variant currently circulating outside Africa is the West African variant but scientists say it is too simplistic to say this outbreak originated in Africa and pointed to evidence from recent research that monkeypox may have been circulating undetected outside Africa for some time.
In recent months, other critics have also pointed out that “monkey” is sometimes used as a racial slur against black people.