London, Aug 14: The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is holding an open forum to rename the disease monkeypox, after some critics raised concerns the name could be derogatory or have racist connotations.
In a statement on Friday, the UN health agency said it has also renamed two families, or clades, of the virus, using Roman numerals instead of geographic areas, to avoid stigmatisation. The version of the disease formerly known as the Congo Basin will now be known as Clade one or I and the West Africa clade will be known as Clade two or II.
WHO said the decision was made following a meeting of scientists this week and in line with current best practices for naming diseases, which aims to "avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups, and minimise any negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare".
Numerous other diseases, including Japanese encephalitis, Marburg virus, Spanish influenza and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome have been named after the geographic areas where they first arose or were identified. WHO has not publicly suggested changing any of those names.
Monkeypox was first named in 1958 when research monkeys in Denmark were observed to have a "pox-like" disease, although they are not thought to be the animal reservoir.