Why monkeys may soon have a new name – World

Monkeys may soon have a new name, after scientists called for changes to eliminate stereotypes that are seen as a source of disease in Africa.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week that it is “working with partners and experts around the world to change the name of the monkey virus, its classes and the disease it causes.”

Monkeys, which are different branches of the family tree of the virus, are especially controversial because they are named after African regions.

Last year, the WHO officially named the Covid-19 variants in Greek to prevent stigmatization of the areas where they were first found.

A few days before the WHO announced that it would change its name to ape, a group of 29 scientists wrote a letter saying there was an “urgent need for a non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing nomenclature” for the virus.

The letter, signed by several prominent African scholars, called for the renaming of the “West Africa” ​​and “Central Africa” ​​or “Congo Basin” monkey breeds.

A few months ago, smallpox was found mainly in West and Central Africa.

But since May, the new version has spread to many parts of the world. The signatories suggested naming the version a new class and labeling it the “hMPXV filler label” for the human apex virus.

to read: The WHO warns of a “real” threat because monkeys account for 1,000 cases of smallpox

According to the latest update from the World Health Organization last week, 84 percent of the more than 2,100 reported cases of smallpox worldwide this year were in Europe, 12 percent in the United States and only 3 percent in Africa.

“It’s not a monkey disease”

Oevale Tomori, a virologist at Nigeria’s Rescue University, said he supported the renaming of the monkey.

“But the name monkey smallpox is also aberrant. That’s the wrong name, ”he said AFP. “If I were an ape, I would object because it’s not a monkey disease.”

The virus was first identified in a Danish laboratory in 1958 among monkeys, but humans have mostly contracted the virus from rodents.

The letter noted that “almost all” epidemics in Africa were caused by people who contracted the virus from animals, not other people.

“But the current epidemic is unusual because it is contagious,” said Olivier Restif, an epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge.

“So it’s safe to say that the current has nothing to do with Africa, and that the waves and variants of Covid-19 that we’re still suffering have nothing to do with Asian bats. The virus appeared a few years ago.”

“Stigmatization of Africa”

Moses John Bocari of Njala University in Sierra Leone has agreed to a call to change the monkey’s name.

“Monkeys are usually associated with the global south, especially Africa,” he wrote A talk.

“Besides, there is a long history of comparing black people to apes. The nomenclature of any disease should not motivate it. “

“It’s important to emphasize that this debate is part of a larger issue of stigmatizing Africa as a source of disease,” Restif said.

“We’ve seen this in the 1980s with HIV, with Ebola during the 2013 epidemic, and once again with Covid-19 and the so-called ‘South African Options,'” he said. AFP.

The African press group also expressed its displeasure with the media, which used images of black people, along with cases of smallpox in North America and the United Kingdom.

“We condemn the continuation of this negative stereotype that has given the African race a catastrophe and privilege or immunity over other races,” he wrote on Africa’s Twitter page last month.

Restif noted that “old pictures of African patients” used by Western media usually reflect severe symptoms.

But the worldwide spread of smallpox is “much milder, which partly explains how easily it can be transmitted,” he said.

The World Health Organization will announce the new monkey names “as soon as possible,” said its head, Tedros Adhanom Gebreius.

The UN agency also held an emergency committee meeting on Thursday to decide whether the epidemic would declare an international public health emergency.

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