the names of the variants deemed “misleading” or “stigmatising”, renamed by the WHO

CYNTHIA S. GOLDSMITH, RUSSELL RE/VIA REUTERS An electron microscopic (EM) image shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virus particles as well as crescents and spherical particles of immature virions, obtained from a clinical human skin sample associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak in this undated image obtained by Reuters on May 18, 2022. Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regnery/CDC/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

CYNTHIA S. GOLDSMITH, RUSSELL RE/VIA REUTERS

(Illustrative photo: the monkeypox virus studied under a microscope)

HEALTH – The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Friday August 12 that it had renamed the variants of monkeypox, replacing the names of African regions with Roman numerals, which were deemed to be stigmatizing.

These new variant names make it possible to take note of the current reality of the disease. While this has long been limited to around ten African countries, the vast majority of new cases have been detected this year elsewhere in the world, in particular in the United States, Europe and Brazil.

In a press release, the WHO also indicates that it is conducting a broad online consultative process to change the name of the disease, also deemed misleading and discriminatory, since the virus is not linked only to monkeys but has been demonstrated in many animals, especially rodents.

Implement “a nomenclature that is neither discriminatory nor stigmatizing”

As for the variants, also called clades, they were named until now after regions or countries of Africa, with the West African strain and that of the Congo Basin (Central Africa ), the second being much more deadly than its cousin.

At the beginning of June, about thirty scientists, many from Africa, thus wrote a forum to ask to change these names, judging it urgent to set up “a nomenclature that is neither discriminatory nor stigmatizing”.

They were heard by the WHO, which brought together virologists and public health experts on August 8 to reach a consensus on a new terminology. “A consensus has been reached to designate the former Congo Basin (Central Africa) clade as clade one (I) and the former West African clade as clade two (II)”the WHO said on Friday.

Twelve deaths reported worldwide

In addition, “It has been agreed that clade II consists of two subclades. (…) Thus, the new naming convention includes clade I, clade IIa and clade IIb, the latter referring primarily to the group of variants that are circulating widely in the global outbreak of 2022”, the WHO added. The new clade names take effect immediately.

The name of the disease – monkeypox – is the legacy of the conditions in which the disease was discovered in the 1950s: Danish researchers had discovered it in monkeys in their laboratory.

Worldwide, more than 31,665 cases and 12 deaths have been reported, according to the WHO, which triggered its highest level of alert at the end of July in order to strengthen the fight against the disease.

See also on The HuffPost: Monkey pox: in Paris, this already saturated vaccination center

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