The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Wednesday that it is changing the name of the monkeypox virus to “MPOX.” The change is said to be an attempt to reduce the public stigma attached to the virus and was specifically requested by the Biden administration.
Confidential sources told Politico that senior White House officials have been pressuring the WHO to change the name and threatened to unilaterally adopt a new name if the group did not agree to the proposal. The WHO had conditionally agreed to the name of the illness during the summer and said that it was taking time to consider suggestions for a new nomenclature.
The Biden Administration has reportedly asked the WHO to change the naming of the monkeypox virus, citing the moniker's allegedly racist connotations. https://t.co/ePQYHoMaIL pic.twitter.com/1vCyWhsxJg
— NEWSMAX (@NEWSMAX) November 24, 2022
The WHO did not acknowledge the Biden administration’s demands specifically, only saying that a “number of individuals and countries” had expressed concern about the “monkeypox” name. A number of LGBTQ organizations have called for changing the name of the virus this year, claiming that monkeypox is imprecise and conjures up racist stereotypes about African people.
The Biden administration reportedly considers the “monkeypox” name as harmful to people of color. It further appears that it believed that the “monkeypox” name was causing hesitancy among the public to receive the vaccine for the virus.
A WHO representative told reporters earlier this year that giving official names to diseases “should be done with the aim to minimize the negative impact and avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.”
The WHO continues to designate the monkeypox outbreak as a global health emergency, which is the highest alert level the organization uses. The label is intended to lead to a coordinated international response and joint funding to provide vaccines and treatments around the world.
To date, there have been around 29,000 reported cases of monkeypox infection inside the U.S.
The outbreak inside the U.S. has largely abated, likely due to extensive vaccination among gay males in coastal cities.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised the public that the “data suggest that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up the majority of cases in the current monkeypox outbreak.”
The CDC added that anyone who has had “close personal contact” with an infected person is at risk.