New York, Europe Brief News – The World Health Organization (WHO) has asked for help from the public in coming up with a less stigmatising designation for monkeypox.
The UN health agency has for weeks voiced concern about the name of the disease that began making global headlines in May.
Experts have warned the name can be stigmatising to the primates it was named after, but who play little role in its spread, and to the African continent the animals are often associated with.
Recently in Brazil, for instance, there have been reported cases of people attacking monkeys over fear of the disease.
“Human monkeypox was given its name before current best practices in naming diseases,” the WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib told reporters in Geneva.
“We want really to find a name that is not stigmatising,” she added, saying the public consultation could be accessed through a dedicated website where anyone can propose a new name.
Monkeypox received its name because the virus was originally identified in monkeys kept for research in Denmark in 1958, but the disease is found in a number of animals, and most frequently in rodents.
The disease was first discovered in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the spread among humans since then mainly limited to certain west and central African countries where it is endemic.