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WHO urges swapping of the term 'monkeypox' for 'mpox' due to 'racist and stigmatizing language'

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FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization is suggesting use of the term "mpox" rather than "monkeypox," citing "racist and stigmatizing language" as the rationale for recommending the language shift.

"Following a series of consultations with global experts, WHO will begin using a new preferred term 'mpox' as a synonym for monkeypox. Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while 'monkeypox' is phased out," the WHO noted in a press release. "When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatizing language online, in other settings and in some communities was observed and reported to WHO. In several meetings, public and private, a number of individuals and countries raised concerns and asked WHO to propose a way forward to change the name."

"WHO will adopt the term mpox in its communications, and encourages others to follow these recommendations, to minimize any ongoing negative impact of the current name and from adoption of the new name," the release noted.

Except in nations located in West and Central Africa, the illness has largely been impacting men who engage in homosexual activity, according to the WHO.

"With the exception of countries in West and Central Africa, the ongoing outbreak of monkeypox continues to primarily affect men who have sex with men who have reported recent sex with one or multiple partners. At present there is no signal suggesting sustained transmission beyond these networks," the WHO noted.

The WHO is a United Nations agency, and the U.N. has claimed that "words can be weapons. Hate speech online can lead to cruelty & violence in real life."

"Founded in 1948, WHO is the United Nations agency that connects nations, partners and people to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable – so everyone, everywhere can attain the highest level of health," according to the WHO.

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