Who to hold an emergency meeting on monkeypox, set to rename virus

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has announced plans by the WHO to hold an emergency meeting on the ravaging Monkeypox virus. 

“The global outbreak of monkeypox is clearly unusual and concerning. It is for that reason that I have decided to convey to the emergency committee under the international health regulations next week to access whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern,” the WHO chief said at a press briefing held in Geneva. 

Mr. Tedros said the meeting will be held on Thursday next week. 

While explaining the extent to which Monkeypox has spread to the world, Mr. Ghebreyesus said 39 new countries recorded cases of the virus. 

“So far this year, more than 1,600 confirmed cases and nearly 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported to WHO from 39 countries including seven countries where monkeypox has been detected for years and 32 newly affected countries,” he said.

He added that “72 deaths have been recorded from previously affected countries, but no death has been recorded from the newly affected countries.”  


Another point raised during the press briefing was the possible change in the name of the virus. Dr. Tedros said the body is working with experts on the renaming of the virus. 

“WHO is also working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of the monkeypox virus. We will make an announcement about the new name as soon as possible,” the WHO chief said. 

Experts and virologists have raised concerns about the discriminatory nature of the current name of the virus. A Paper released by a group of medical experts stressed the need to rename the virus to avoid discrimination and stigmatization. 

“The prevailing perception in the international media and scientific literature is that MPXV is endemic in people in some African countries. However, it is well established that nearly all MPXV outbreaks in Africa prior to the 2022 outbreak, have been the result of spillover from animals to humans, and only rarely have there been reports of sustained human-to-human transmissions,” the paper explained. 

“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 most obvious manifestation of this is the use of photos of African patients to depict the pox lesions in mainstream media in the global north. Recently, Foreign Press Association, Africa issued a statement urging the global media to stop using images of African people to highlight the outbreak in Europe.”

The paper recommended that the name of the virus be changed. 

“With the above suggestions, we encourage the community to adopt a principled and neutral naming scheme,” the paper recommended. 

Recently, human-to-human transmission of monkeypox has increased, with some countries recording more cases in the gay community. The virus has also spread widely in Europe and America. All these have necessitated a change in the name of the virus.