Amid the recent monkeypox outbreak, last week, a group of researchers published a report detailing the racist and discriminatory nature of the virus' current name. According to June 10 report, although the disease has historically been spread within central and West Africa, the ongoing international outbreak is in no way connected with those regions, so continuing to call the virus "monkeypox" is inaccurate and unfairly links transmission with the continent.
“In the context of the current global outbreak, continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing,” the researchers said. Their report also called out the widespread use of photos of Africans from previous epidemics as depictions of the current outbreak.
In response to calls for changing the term, WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday (June 14) that the agency would unveil “the new names as soon as possible.”
Along with the virus itself being renamed, strains will now likely be distinguished by letters in an effort to remove any association with the African regions where they were first found.
The current naming system divides strains into two types: West African and Central African. However, naming viruses by geography violates WHO guidelines because of the stigma and stereotypes the geographical terms could promote.
Experts have suggested the name hMPXV to replace monkeypox.