Push to rename monkeypox to fight growing stigma

pox hands
pox hands

Mustafa Kaya/iStock

Yesterday, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC Health) sent a letter to the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, asking that monkeypox be renamed as soon as possible.

"NYC joins many public health experts and community leaders who have expressed their serious concern about continuing to exclusively use the term 'monkeypox' given the stigma it may engender, and the painful and racist history within which terminology like this is rooted for communities of color," the letter reads. "'Monkeypox'" is a misnomer, as the virus does not originate in monkeys and was only classified as such due to an infection seen in research primates."

The WHO stated last month it was in the process of renaming the virus but had dropped the topic until this week. Today at a WHO briefing, the technical lead on monkeypox, Rosamund Lewis, MD, said new names are being discussed, including using the virus clades to name circulating strains.

In other news, the Washington Post reported yesterday that Biden officials privately estimated that fighting the growing outbreak in the United States will cost $7 billion. The money would go to vaccines, testing, and treatments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday reported 104 more monkeypox cases, bringing the total to 3,591 from 48 jurisdictions. New York has 900 cases, followed by California (356 cases), and Illinois (350).

WHO: 70% of cases in Europe

Today during the WHO briefing, Tedros said there are now more than 18,000 cases in 78 countries, with 70% of cases reported from Europe and 25% from the Americas.

Five deaths have been reported, and worldwide hospitalization rates hover at 10%.

Tedros said the outbreak can end if individuals reduce their risk of contracting the virus. "For men who have sex with men, this includes, for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners, and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if needed," said Tedros.

Tedros also said the WHO recommends targeted vaccination for those exposed to monkeypox and those at high risk for contracting the disease. There are only 16 million doses of the MVA-BN (known as Jynneos in the United States) vaccine globally, however.

"Several countries with monkeypox cases have secured supplies of the MVA-BN vaccine, and WHO is in contact with other countries to understand their supply needs," he said.

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