The Biden administration said Monday it supports the World Health Organization’s decision to rename monkeypox as mpox.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said federal agencies will adopt the new name in its materials for doctors and public remarks on the disease.
WHO said it is changing the name because of complaints the term is misleading and led to “racist and stigmatizing language online.”
“We welcome the change by the World Health Organization. We must do all we can to break down barriers to public health, and reducing stigma associated with disease is one critical step in our work to end mpox,” Ms. Becerra said.
Monkeypox is endemic to Africa but surged in the U.S. and other countries in the spring. It is rarely fatal but features a painful rash and has been tied to 14 deaths in the U.S.
The U.S. has recorded more than 29,000 cases, most of them in men who report having sex with other men. The rate of spread began to slow earlier this fall, causing the disease to drop out of the headlines.
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The name “monkeypox” is a misnomer. The virus does not originate in monkeys and was named after infections detected in research primates.
The disease was named in 1958, or well before the WHO issued guidelines in 2015 that say diseases should be given general names that avoid negative impacts on groups of people or countries.
For instance, the coronavirus discovered in Wuhan, China, was given the name COVID-19 to describe “coronavirus disease” and the year it was detected.