WHO Renames Monkeypox to "Mpox"

Photo: Reuters [via Fox News]

The Facts

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that "monkeypox" will now be referred to as "mpox," amid controversy that "monkeypox" is racist and stigmatizing. For the next year, both names will be used before "monkeypox" is phased out.

  • Scientists and experts have encouraged the name change since the beginning of the most recent outbreak — fearing that the stigma from the name would discourage people from getting tested, vaccinated, and seeking treatment. Stigmatization has reportedly particularly impacted men who have sex with men, as well as Black and Hispanic people.

The Spin

Narrative A

Monkeypox should be renamed for two reasons. First, the long history of the world referring to Black people as "monkeys" creates a dangerous racist stigma that undermines public health initiatives. Second, the current name makes the virus sound like transmission only occurs between monkeys, which is factually incorrect. This hampers the world's ability to control and respond to the outbreak.

Narrative B

The obsession with renaming monkeypox has detracted from the world's ability to combat the virus and snuff out the outbreak. The concerns about the virus' name and the history of racial stereotyping are well intended, but there has been no evidence that stereotyping in connection with the outbreak is taking place. The use of images showing Black people with lesions, for example, does not create a stigma, and obsessing over the virus name draws more attention than is warranted.

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