Poxy McPoxface, TRUMP-22 or Mpox: these are some of the ideas sent by the public to the World Health Organization in their search for a new name for monkeypox.
Disease names are often chosen behind closed doors by a technical committee, but this time the WHO has decided to open the process to the public. Dozens of proposals have already been submitted from various contributors, including academics, doctors and a gay community activist.
They range from the technical (OPOXID-22, introduced by Harvard Medical School ER doctor Jeremy Faust) to the absurd (Poxy McPoxface, introduced by Andrew Yi in allusion to Boaty McBoatface, which almost became the name of a British polar analysis vessel following a public vote).
Pressure is mounting for a new name for the disease, in part because critics say it is misleading since monkeys are not the original host animal.
A group of leading scientists drafted a document in June calling for a “neutral, non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing” name, fearing the name could be used in a racist way. Until this year, monkeypox had spread mainly in a handful of countries in West and Central Africa.
“It is very important that we find a new name for monkeypox because it is the best practice not to create any offense to an ethical group, a region, a country, an animal, etc,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela said on Tuesday. Chaib.
“The WHO is very concerned about this matter and we want to find a name that is not stigmatizing,” he added without giving a deadline.
One of the most popular proposals so far is Mpox, presented by Samuel Miriello, director of the men’s health organization RÉZO, which is already using the name in its outreach campaigns in Montreal, Canada.
“When the image of the monkey is removed, people seem to understand more quickly that there is an emergency that needs to be taken seriously,” he told Reuters.
Another proposal, TRUMP-22, seemed to refer to former US President Donald Trump, who used the controversial term “Chinese virus” to refer to the new coronavirus, although its author said it meant “unrecognized toxic eruption of mysterious provenance of 2022”, by its acronym in English.
The WHO is mandated to assign new names to existing diseases. The entity said it would decide between the proposals “based on their scientific validity, their acceptability, their pronounceability (and) whether they can be used in different languages.”
“I’m sure we won’t come up with a ridiculous name,” Chaib said.
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 and was named after the first animal to show symptoms. The WHO last month declared the current outbreak a public health emergency with more than 32,000 cases reported in more than 80 countries.