The World Health Organization (WHO) today announced that it is recommending mpox as the new name for monkeypox disease, following expert consultations that addressed racist and stigmatizing language.
Both names will be used simultaneously for 1 year as the monkeypox term is phased out, the WHO said in its announcement. The group followed the naming process under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the WHO Family of International Health Related Classifications. It said the ICD updating process can take several years, but was accelerated while following the usual steps. The expert groups weighed several considerations, including rationale, scientific appropriateness, extent of current usage, pronounceability, usability in different languages, absence of geographical or zoological references, and the ease of retrieval of historical scientific information.
The term "monkeypox" to describe a human infection with the orthopoxvirus was first used in 1970, given that the disease was discovered in captive monkeys in 1958. The naming occurred well before the WHO published best practices for disease naming—established to reduce unnecessary stigma— in 2015. The WHO added that before the global mpox outbreak, the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses had already been considering renaming all orthopoxvirus species, including monkeypox.
In August, WHO experts agreed, as part of naming best practices, on new names for mpox virus variants, with the former Congo Basin (Central African) clade renamed clade 1 and the former West African clade renamed clade 2.