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Rebecca Lumley
17 Aug 2022

WHO calls on public for ideas to rename monkeypox

‘Poxy McPoxface’, ‘TRUMP-22’, and ‘Mpox’ are just some of the suggestions submitted by the public  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is asking for the public’s help in renaming the monkeypox virus due to concerns over misconceptions associated with the current name. 

Disease names are often chosen behind closed doors by a technical committee, but the WHO has this time decided to open up the process to the public. 

There have been recent calls for the disease to be renamed, with critics calling it misleading since monkeys are not the original animal host. In June, a group of scientists wrote a position paper calling for a name that was ‘neutral, non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing'.  

‘It's very important we find a new name for monkeypox because this is best practice not to create any offence to an ethical group, a region, a country, an animal etc,’ WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib said on Tuesday. 

So far, dozens of suggestions have been submitted through the WHO’s online portal. These range from technical (OPOXID-22), to political (TRUMP-22), to light-hearted (Poxy McPoxface). One of the more popular submissions so far is Mpox, submitted by Samuel Miriello, the director of a men's health organisation in Canada. 

After convening a group of global experts on August 8, the WHO also decided to rename the two dominant variants of monkeypox. Previously called the Central African or Congo Basin clade and the West African clade, the strains will now be officially called Clade I and Clade II, respectively. The group also decided that Clade II consists of two distinct subclades.   

The WHO said it would decide between the proposals based on ‘their scientific validity, their acceptability, their pronounceability (and) whether they can be used in different languages’. 

Monkeypox is a viral infection that spreads through close contact and can be identified by flu-like symptoms, distinctive rashes and lesions on the skin. The World Health Organisation (WHO) designated the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern in late July after cases of the disease were recorded in more than 80 countries where it is not usually found.

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