The Chicago Journal

Monkeypox stigma has prompted the World Health Organization to come up with a name change

When Monkeypox broke out for the first time decades ago, scientists and activists insisted on a name that played less discriminatory and “non-discriminatory.”

Public health experts feared that the name would create a stigma that would make it unattractive for people to be tested and vaccinated.

According to experts, a new name would help to spread the disease.

60,000 cases have been reported all over the world and in June the general manager of the World Health Organization promised to change the name of the virus.

How did it take the name?

Traditionally, the scientist who isolates a virus has the honor of giving a name and Monkeypox has taken the name of him for 64 years.

Researcher Preben von Magnus and his team discovered two “smallpox-like” outbreaks in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1958.

The virus was found in a colony of crab-eating macaques, but it wasn’t until 1970 that the first human case of monkeypox was documented.

Although the baby had recovered from the infection, he would die of measles six days later.

Since then, cases have been documented in West and Central Africa.

According to the CDC, things in other places had to do with travel.

In 2018, cases emerged in countries that hadn’t seen the disease in decades, creating a global health concern.

It was not until this year that a name change was proposed, as outbreaks began to appear in countries where monkeypox had never been recorded.

Suggested names for old viruses

According to the WHO, the naming process is underway with a review of orthopoxvirus species, including the following:

  • Camelpox
  • Cowpox
  • Horsepox
  • Monkeypox
  • Raccoonpox
  • Skunkpox

Colin McInnes, a member of the WHO’s taxonomy committee, said the group’s mandate was to bring “virus species nomenclature into line with the way that most other forms of life are named.”

He shared that while smallpox viruses are traditionally named after the animal that is seen first, this has also led to some inconsistencies.

The origin of monkeypox is still unknown and probably did not start with monkeys as it is found in many other animal species.

McInnes, associate director and chief scientist of the Moredun Group, a group that develops vaccines and tests for livestock and other animals, is also studying cerebral smallpox.

SquirrelPox should also change its name.

He said that the Monkeypox virus and others had been renamed “orthopoxvirus” and “something.”

“It is the ‘something’ that is currently being debated,” said McInnes.

He revealed that some scientists prefer to stick to the name of Monkeypox in order to maintain the link with 50 years of published research.

The WHO committee has proposed changes until June next year.


Many scientists have asked who to work urgently. Weeks passed without action in July, prompting New York’s health commissioner to send a letter to the WHO.

The letter urged them to act before it was too late, citing growing concerns over the stigmatizing impact news of the monkeypox virus could have on communities.

The outbreak largely affects gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men, causing ongoing stigma and concern for WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Stigma and discrimination can be just as dangerous as any virus,” Tedros said when he declared monkeypox a global health emergency in July.

The CDC reports that the virus disproportionately affects blacks and Hispanics in the United States.

Local public health data shows that fewer members of both communities are receiving the vaccine.

Experts fear that, aside from barriers that make it difficult to access any type of health care, some people may not get vaccinated or tested due to stigma.

Other proposed names

In the 2015 WHO naming conventions, the organization urged consultants not to name diseases after animals, names, professions and places due to stigma.

Last month, the WHO also requested that new names for monkeypox be submitted on its website.

Over 180 names were presented with a wide range of creative explanations. Names like Lopox, Ovidpox, Mixypox and Roxypox carried no explanation.

During this time, a handful made jokes, like Alaskapox, Bonopox and Rodentpox.

Johanna Vogl introduced “greypox” and said the name referred to a phenotypic characteristic of the disease and gray sores.

She also explained that it was not related to human skin color, location, group or animal.

Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an instructor in emergency medicine at Harvard, suggested “Opoxide-22.”

“While the monkeypox virus causing the current outbreak is not a novel pathogen, I propose that due to its destination as a public health emergency of international concern, renaming it is warranted,” Faust explained.

He added that he was concerned about the inaccuracy of the monkeypox name and the stigma attached to it, and said he submitted the name pending completion of further work.

The name Opoxid-22 reflects what is known about the virus and removes the “monkey” from the name.


Worries over stigma are driving a push to rename monkeypox, but the process is slow