The WHO is asking people for a new name for monkeypox

The WHO is asking people for a new name for monkeypox
Photo by Nitin Dhumal on

You might have noticed that virus names are notoriously bad. For example, SARS-CoV-2 (the official name for COVID) is long and confusing and just reminds people of the totally different version of SARS that showed up in the early 2000s. COVID-19 was a little better, except that a whole bunch of people thought it was the 19th version of COVID. (Spoiler: it wasn’t.) And we’re all painfully aware of how scary all the different variants sound.

But there’s one virus name that pretty much everyone can agree is really, really bad – monkeypox.

See, there are a few problems with the term monkeypox. For one, it was named before standardized naming practices were adopted, when viruses were often named after the region or circumstances they were discovered in. But that practice has since been changed because it can encourage discrimination against people from certain regions.

Monkeypox was named in 1958 after it was initially found in monkeys used for research in Denmark. And now, the virus is often associated with central and western Africa since that’s where its human transmission was first discovered.

But, there are serious concerns about the misconceptions and stigmas the name creates. For one, monkeypox isn’t exclusively found in monkeys but rather a number of animals and most frequently in rodents. Some have also pointed out the name could potentially trigger traumatic feelings associated with “the painful and racist history" of communities of color.

All in all, there’s so much consensus about how much the name sucks that the WHO is working on renaming it, and they want your help. The organization is allowing people to submit ideas for a new name for the virus going forward and is inviting anyone to submit an idea.
So, if you want to give monkeypox-naming a shot, here’s the online portal to submit your idea!