New Name for Monkeypox

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that mpox is currently the preferred name for monkeypox.

Why was monkeypox renamed?

  • Monkeypox was named in 1970 – more than 10 years after the virus that causes the disease was discovered in captive monkeys.
  • However, monkeypox probably did not originate in monkeys and knowledge related to its origins is still unknown.
  • The monkeypox virus is currently found several other animals apart from monkeys.
  • The name for the disease was given before the WHO published the best practices for naming diseases in 2015.
  • Since the recent outbreak, experts have suggested changing the name of the disease to avoid discrimination and stigma, which discouraged people from testing and vaccination.
  • The monkeypox had mainly affected gay men. In the United States, black and Hispanic people were disproportionately affected by the viral infection.
  • Currently, both names – monkeypox and mpox – will be used simultaneously for one year until the former will be phased out gradually.

Who is responsible for naming diseases?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is responsible for giving new names to newly discovered diseases and existing diseases under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the WHO Family of International Health Related Classifications (WHO-FIC) by consulting with the member states of WHO. The responsibility of naming viruses lies with the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). It had started the process of renaming all orthopox viruses, including monkeypox virus, before the global outbreak in 2022. This will continue to be under the purview of the ICTV.

About ICTV

The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, set up in 1966, is responsible for authorizing and organizing taxonomic classification of and the nomenclature of viruses. It was previously known as the International Committee on Nomenclature of Viruses (ICNV). The members of this organization are known as expert virologists. The ICTV has developed a systematic method to name, describe and classify every virus affecting living organisms.

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