The World Health Organization has renamed monkeypox as mpox, citing concerns the original name of the decades-old animal disease could be construed as discriminatory and racist.
The U.N. health agency said in a statement on Monday that mpox was its new preferred name for monkeypox, saying that both monkeypox and mpox would be used for the next year while the old name is phased out.
WHO said it was concerned by the “racist and stigmatizing language” that arose after monkeypox spread to more than 100 countries. It said numerous individuals and countries asked the organization “to propose a way forward to change the name.”
“The synonym mpox will be included in the ICD-10 online in the coming days. It will be a part of the official 2023 release of ICD-11, which is the current global standard for health data, clinical documentation and statistical aggregation.
“The term “monkeypox” will remain a searchable term in ICD, to match historic information.
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“Considerations for the recommendations included 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.
“Usually, the ICD updating process can take up to several years. In this case, the process was accelerated, though following the standard steps.
“Various advisory bodies were heard during the consultation process, including experts from the medical and scientific and classification and statistics advisory committees which was constituted of representatives from government authorities of 45 different countries.
“The issue of the use of the new name in different languages was extensively discussed. The preferred term mpox can be used in other languages. If additional naming issues arise, these will be addressed via the same mechanism. Translations are usually discussed in formal collaboration with relevant government authorities and the related scientific societies.
“The WHO will adopt the term mpox in its communications, and encourages others to follow these recommendations, to minimise any ongoing negative impact of the current name and from adoption of the new name,” it added.