WHO Recommends New Name for Monkeypox Disease
GENEVA — The World Health Organization has begun using the term “mpox” as the preferred synonym for monkeypox.
Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while “monkeypox” is phased out, the organization said.
According to the WHO, when the current outbreak of monkeypox began earlier this year, it began receiving reports of racist and stigmatizing language about the illness and its victims on social media and other online forums.
Assigning names to new and, very exceptionally, to existing diseases is the responsibility of the WHO under the International Classification of Diseases and the WHO Family of International Health Related Classifications through a consultative process that includes WHO member states.
The WHO, in accordance with the ICD update process, held consultations to gather views from a range of experts, as well as countries and the general public, who were invited to submit suggestions for new names. Based on these consultations, and further discussions with WHO’s Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO recommends the following:
- Adoption of the new synonym mpox in English for the disease.
- Mpox will become a preferred term, replacing monkeypox, after a transition period of one year. This serves to mitigate the concerns raised by experts about confusion caused by a name change in the midst of a global outbreak. It also gives time to complete the ICD update process and to update WHO publications.
- 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 the ICD, to match historic information.
Among those who welcomed the change was Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who said in a statement, “We must do all we can to break down barriers to public health, and reducing stigma associated with disease is one critical step in our work to end mpox.”
Human monkeypox was given its name in 1970, before the publication of the WHO’s best practices in naming diseases was published in 2015.
According to the WHO’s best practices, new disease names should be given with the aim to minimize unnecessary negative impact of names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.