The World Health Organization has announced that it is renaming the monkeypox virus to “MPOX” in an effort to reduce the stigma surrounding the virus.
The decision was made after the Biden administration threatened WHO officials that if they failed to change the name the U.S. would act unilaterally if the international body did not act promptly.
Politico reports: The WHO traditionally acts as a global coordinator on public health issues, including declaring international health emergencies and recommending names for diseases that are then adopted by individual countries.
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But the Biden administration for months worried that the virus’ name was deepening stigma — especially among people of color — and that the slow movement toward a new designation was hampering the vaccination campaign it started over the summer, the people with knowledge of the matter said.
The WHO said Wednesday that it would share details on a new name once they were finalized and that “a number of individuals and countries” had raised concerns about the virus’ name and asked the organization to address it. The White House declined to comment.
Public health experts and LGBT activists had similarly called for abandoning the virus’ name, which it received upon its discovery in 1958, since it began spreading widely this past spring. They argued that calling it the monkeypox is imprecise, plays into racist stereotypes about Africa and is detrimental to the global response.