New York state asks WHO to rename monkeypox because of stigma

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The New York Department of Health is calling on the World Health Organization (WHO) to immediately change the name of the monkeypox virus.

In a letter to the Director General of the WHO, Dr. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Ashwin Vasan writes that despite concerns about the rapid increase in infections in the Big Apple and limited access to testing resources and vaccine supplies, monkeypox reports are “growing” for the stigmatization and “potentially devastating” effects they can have on vulnerable communities.

“Therefore, I am writing to urge you to take immediate action to change the name of the monkeypox virus, as the WHO said in a June 14 press briefing. [five] weeks ago. “NYC joins many public health experts and community leaders who have expressed serious concern about the continued use of the term ‘monkey pox,’ the stigma and painful and racist history that similar terminology has instilled in communities of color,” he said.

Tedros and the World Health Organization last week declared the global outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

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“Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus,” he told reporters.

Reports of monkeypox have divided officials, and Tedros announced in June that the United Nations health agency was working with experts to change its name.

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Ashwin Vasan speaks during a media availability at Elmhurst Hospital.
(Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Humans become infected with monkeypox virus, usually through contact with the skin lesions or body fluids of infected animals or humans, or through contact with materials contaminated with the virus.

Although most cases are seen in gay or bisexual men, experts warn that anyone is potentially at risk.

In early June, a group of scientists wrote at a forum that the nomenclature and reference to the African virus was “not only imprecise, but also discriminatory and stigmatizing.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus has now spread to more than 75 countries, most of which have not previously reported cases of monkeypox.

According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox is endemic in West and Central Africa.

People wait to receive a monkeypox vaccine at a mass vaccination site in Manhattan on July 26, 2022 in New York City.

People wait to receive a monkeypox vaccine at a mass vaccination site in Manhattan on July 26, 2022 in New York City.
(Liao Pan/China News Service via Getty Images)

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“‘Monkey pox’ is a misnomer because the virus does not occur in monkeys and was classified as such because of the infection observed in research primates,” Vasan added.

According to Wasan, the continued use of the term “monkey pox” could rekindle traumatic feelings of racism and stigma, particularly for black communities, other communities of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Commissioner Ashwin Vasan speaks to health officials before the opening of a mass monkey vaccination site at the Bushwick Education Campus on July 17, 2022 in Brooklyn.

Commissioner Ashwin Vasan speaks to health officials before the opening of a mass monkey vaccination site at the Bushwick Education Campus on July 17, 2022 in Brooklyn.
(Kena Betancourt/AFP via Getty Images)

Wasan also noted that hate crimes against Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) people have increased exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and warned that stigma can have additional consequences for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

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“Words can save lives or put them in danger; so the world cannot repeat these mistakes in nomenclature again,” he said. “We are at a critical juncture in the monkeypox epidemic – before understanding and awareness of the virus becomes widespread, and during a time when the disease is spreading, we need to send broad messages about primary prevention and risk.” WHO acts now before it is too late.”

As of Tuesday, 1,092 people had been tested for orthopoxvirus and monkeypox, according to the city, but there are many more undiagnosed cases.

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