Health

WHO to rename monkeypox virus to avoid discrimination

The World Health Organization said he would rename monkeypox to avoid discrimination and stigma as the virus continues to spread among people during an unprecedented global outbreak of the disease.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said the organization was “working with partners and experts around the world to change the name of the monkeypox virus, its clades and the disease it causes”.

The move comes after scientists called for an “urgent” name change which they called “inaccurate”, “discriminatory” and “stigmatising” in a report published last week. An announcement on the new name would be made “as soon as possible,” Tedros said.

Similar concerns were raised at the height of the coronavirus pandemic when new variants of Covid were named after the countries or regions where they were first detected, prompting travel bans and other limitations. In response, the WHO introduced a naming system that referred to new variants as letters of the Greek alphabet.

In the report, scientists are concerned that the “dominant perception” in the media and scientific literature is that monkeypox virus is endemic in humans in some African countries, while the virus is found overwhelmingly in animals, which have historically triggered occasional epidemics when they infect people.

Scientists warn of “a growing narrative in the media and among many scientists who attempt to link the current global epidemic to Africa or West Africa, or Nigeria”. While the UK Health The security agency first sounded the alarm after a person with monkeypox arrived in London from Nigeria on May 4, the virus had already been spreading for some time, mainly among men with sex with men.

The WHO currently refers to two types of monkeypox, namely the “West African” and “Congo Basin (Central Africa)” clades. This year’s epidemic is caused by the first type, which is significantly less dangerous than the second.

“In the context of the current global epidemic, the continued reference and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate, but also discriminatory and stigmatizing,” the experts write. They continue to criticize the use of photos of African smallpox patients in coverage of the outbreak in the global north.

In the report, scientists use the name “hMPXV” for human monkeypox virus as a placeholder to distinguish the virus causing the current international outbreak in humans from the virus most commonly found in animals.

On Wednesday, the WHO’s director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, said the scale of the outbreak “presents a real risk”, telling a press briefing: “The longer the virus circulates , the more it extends its reach, the stronger the imprint of the disease will be”. will get in non-endemic countries. He called on “governments, health partners and civil society” to “act urgently” to “control this epidemic”.

At the same briefing, European Pride board member Steve Taylor said LGBTQ+ events should not be shut down in light of the outbreak, but rather used to spread public health messages about monkeypox. He said around 750 Pride events were due to take place in Europe this summer.

“We have been working with the WHO over the past few weeks to develop our messages and we will be encouraging Pride organizations across Europe to use their events to raise awareness of the facts about monkeypox so people can protect themselves,” he said. -he declares. “Unfortunately, but quite predictably, some of those who oppose Pride and who oppose equality and human rights have already tried to use monkey pox to justify calls to Pride’s ban.

“We are delighted that the WHO guidelines make it clear that pride and major events should not be affected and are, in fact, opportunities to share important public health messages,” he added. .

The UKHSA on Wednesday announced 52 more cases of monkeypox in England, another in Scotland and another in Wales, taking the UK total to 524 as of June 14. More than 1,800 cases of monkeypox have now been confirmed in dozens of countries outside Africa during the latest outbreak.

The UKHSA has urged people to contact a sexual health clinic if they develop a blistering rash and have been in close contact, including sexual contact, with someone who has or may have had monkeypox within the past three weeks, or who had been to West or Central Africa within the past three weeks.

The WHO will convene an emergency meeting of experts on monkeypox next week to advise whether the current outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, meaning it requires a coordinated response.

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