The monkeypox virus, with currently 1 900 confirmed cases in 39 countries across the globe, could soon be renamed in an effort to minimise stigmatisation and racism.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is set to meet next week to assess whether the monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern and if the name can be changed.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said they were working with global partners on changing the name of monkeypox virus, its clades and the disease it causes.
Last week, more than than 30 international scientists said in an online letter that the monkeypox label is discriminatory and stigmatising.
“We propose a novel classification of the monkeypox virus that is non-discriminatory and non-stigmatising and aligned with best practices in naming of infectious diseases in a way that minimises unnecessary negative impacts on nations, geographic regions, economies and people and that considers the evolution and spread of the virus,” said the group.
Monkeypox is a virus from the same family as smallpox, although it is much less severe.
The infection causes a rash or skin eruptions or a rash may begin to appear around three days after the appearance of the fever and presents similarly to chickenpox.
Close to 70 cases have been recorded in eight African countries, with the majority in Nigeria.
WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said they are ramping up support to urgently increase testing capacity for monkeypox.
“We are in the process of procuring thousands of tests for the continent.
“As far as the vaccine is concerned, one of the newer and safer smallpox vaccines has been approved for the prevention of monkeypox.
“Although we are certainly not recommending mass vaccination at this stage, we must ensure we are ready should the need arise,” she said.
The global outbreak of #monkeypox is clearly unusual and concerning. I have decided to convene the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations on Thursday next week, to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) June 14, 2022