Biden Harris Administration Supports the World Health Organization Renaming of Monkeypox to mpox
Today, the Biden Harris Administration offered support for the World Health Organization (WHO) announcement that it is renaming monkeypox disease to mpox.
“We welcome the change by the World Health Organization. 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,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra.
The WHO is the international body responsible for naming diseases. Leaders in the U.S. have been engaging with stakeholders on a regular basis regarding our shared concerns and have been in close communication with counterparts at the WHO expressing support of an urgent process to change the name and propose a way forward with a new name.
In response to today’s action by the WHO, federal public health agencies will adopt the mpox name in correspondence with the medical community and American public from this point forward. This change from the WHO can help enhance the U.S. response to mpox by using a term that does not conjure bias or stigma and will aid efforts to reach the most impacted communities with a term for the disease that doesn’t act to marginalize individuals from accessing the care, resources, and support they need to protect themselves and others.
Human monkeypox was given its name in 1970, before the publication of WHO’s best practices in naming diseases was published in 2015. According to the WHO’s best practices, new disease names should be given with the aim to minimize unnecessary negative impact of names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.