The World Health Organization is considering renaming the monkeypox virus after a group of scientists from Africa and elsewhere said there was an urgent need to replace the "discriminatory" and "stigmatizing" label, reports Bloomberg.
"In the context of the current global outbreak, continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing," the scientists' group said in a position paper online.
"If SARS-CoV-2, for instance, was not named the Wuhan virus … then the question is, Why do we have a virus or a clade named after a specific geographical location in Africa, and then by extension that extends to the people in those areas?" Christian Happi, director of the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases at Redeemer's University in Ede, Nigeri, told Stat News.
"If we have to go by geographical location, then we should name all viruses by geographic location."
Happi also expressed anger at the way the outbreak is being portrayed in the mainstream media. Some news outlets have included photos of African children with monkeypox lesions.
"We find that very discriminatory; we find that very stigmatizing and to some extent … I find it very racist," he said. "The mainstream media, instead of showing pictures of people that are presenting with the lesions, which are white men, they keep putting forward pictures of children in Africa and Africans. And there's no connection."
Maria Van Kerkhove, who heads the emerging diseases and zoonoses unit in the WHO's Health Emergencies Program, on Saturday said the agency was amenable to the idea.
"There is broad support for this," she said.
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