Following a series of consultations with global experts, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday announced that it will begin using a new preferred term “mpox” as a synonym for monkeypox. Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while “monkeypox” is phased out.
“When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatizing language online, in other settings and in some communities was observed and reported to WHO. In several meetings, public and private, a number of individuals and countries raised concerns and asked WHO to propose a way forward to change the name,” the global health agency said on Monday.
Assigning names to new and, very exceptionally, to existing diseases is the responsibility of WHO under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the WHO Family of International Health-Related Classifications through a consultative process that includes WHO Member States.
WHO, in accordance with the ICD update process, held consultations to gather views from a range of experts, as well as countries and the general public, who were invited to submit suggestions for new names. Based on these consultations.
After discussions with WHO’s Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, it has been recommended that mpox will become a preferred term, replacing monkeypox, after a transition period of one year.
“This serves to mitigate the concerns raised by experts about confusion caused by a name change in the midst of a global outbreak. It also gives time to complete the ICD update process and to update WHO publications. The synonym mpox will be included in the ICD-10 online in the coming days. It will be a part of the official 2023 release of ICD-11, which is the current global standard for health data, clinical documentation, and statistical aggregation. The term “monkeypox” will remain a searchable term in ICD, to match historic information,” the global health agency stated.
The recommendations were made while taking into consideration rationale, scientific appropriateness, extent of current usage, pronounceability, usability in different languages, absence of geographical or zoological references, and the ease of retrieval of historical scientific information.
WHO will adopt the term mpox in its communications, and encourages others to follow these recommendations, to minimise any ongoing negative impact of the current name and from adoption of the new name, it stated.