Monkeypox will now be known as mpox, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced, after complaints over racist and stigmatizing language linked to the virus’s name.

The old term will be used alongside the new one for a year, before being phased out.

Mpox was decided on after lengthy discussions between experts, countries and the general public.

It can easily be used in English as well as other languages, the WHO said.

Human monkeypox was first identified in 1970 and named after the disease caused by the virus was discovered in captive monkeys more than a decade before.

Since then, the WHO has introduced advice on naming diseases.

It stresses the need to minimize unnecessary negative impacts on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and to avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national or ethnic groups.

During the Covid pandemic, it recommended that variants were referred to using letters of the Greek alphabet because they were “non-stigmatizing” and easy to pronounce.

This year, there has been an unusual spread of mpox virus a member of the same family of viruses as smallpox – in many countries outside central and west Africa, where it is often found.

Cases of mpox have been reported in 29 countries in Europe, as well as Canada, Australia and the US, prompting huge demand for a vaccine to protect those most at risk.

In July, the WHO declared a global health emergency because of the worldwide surge in people developing symptoms, including a high fever and skin lesions or rash.

However, cases of the disease have been declining for several months now around the world.

The UK has reported more than 3,500 cases since May, but a rollout of vaccines helped drive down cases following a peak in July.

Most people affected were men who have sex with men.

Bbc/Adebukola Aluko


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