(Bloomberg) -- The World Health Organization has recommended that the monkeypox virus be renamed “mpox” to avoid what it called racist and stigmatizing language surrounding the infection.
US public health agencies will use the new term in correspondence with the medical community and the public, according to a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services that praised the decision. HHS has supported an “urgent process” to change the name, the statement said.
“We must do all we can to break down barriers to public health, and reducing stigma associated with disease is one critical step in our work to end mpox,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said.
Read More: What Happened to WHO Renaming the Monkeypox Virus?
Rodentpox-70, Human mediumpox, Bonopox and MOVID-22 were among more than 99 proposed names submitted for consideration to the Geneva-based agency. Mpox was chosen in part because it’s easy to pronounce and isn’t linked to any actual place or animal, the WHO said.
Globally, cases of mpox have continued to decline from a peak in late August, according to WHO data. Though the US previously had the highest number of cases, infections have dropped significantly in recent weeks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures show.
The WHO first said it planned to change the virus’s name in June amid concerns about stigma and racism as the outbreak was rapidly spreading around the globe. Monkeypox did not fit with WHO guidelines for naming viruses that recommend avoiding geographic regions and animal names, a spokesperson said then. In August, the WHO updated how it would reference two strains of the virus that had previously been distinguished by locations in Africa.
But the process has been too slow for some some experts and local health departments who have already moved ahead with unofficially renaming the virus. In Chicago and New York City, for example, health officials have for months been calling the virus “MPV.”
The WHO will initially use mpox alongside monkeypox to avoid confusion, and the old name will be phased out after a year.
(Updates with HHS statement from second paragraph.)
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