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2 monkeypox variants will no longer be named after regions, for ethical reasons

FILE - The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a media conference at an EU Africa summit in Brussels on Feb. 18, 2022. The World Health Organization says monkeypox still does not warrant being declared a global emergency even though it's spreading in more than 70 countries. The decision announced on Saturday was the second time within weeks that WHO’s emergency committee declined to classify the unprecedented outbreak of the once-rare disease as an emergency. (Johanna Geron/Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a media conference at an EU Africa summit in Brussels on Feb. 18, 2022. The World Health Organization says monkeypox still does not warrant being declared a global emergency even though it's spreading in more than 70 countries. The decision announced on Saturday was the second time within weeks that WHO’s emergency committee declined to classify the unprecedented outbreak of the once-rare disease as an emergency. (Johanna Geron/Pool Photo via AP, File)

The World Health Organization has renamed two monkeypox variants that were named after countries and regions in order to align with "current best practices,"the agency has announced.

The new names, Clade I and Clade II, replace the names Congo Basin clade, or variant, and West African clade, respectively. Subsequent variants will be named using Roman numerals for the clade, and lowercase letters for the subclade.

"Newly identified viruses, related disease, and virus variants should be given names with the aim to avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups, and minimize any negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare," the WHO said.

The WHO's best practices state that new names of diseases should:

  • Be generic and descriptive, for diseases with basic characteristics that probably won't change much, such as respiratory disease or hepatitis
  • Be specific and descriptive for classifications, such as age, seasonality, severity, origin and environment (i.e. progressive, winter, juvenile, severe, zoonotic)
  • Be named after the pathogen causing the diseases (i.e. coronavirus)
  • Be short and easy to pronounce
  • Names should not include:

    • Geographic locations (i.e. Spanish flu)
    • People's names (i.e. Chron's disease)
    • Food or animal species (i.e. swine flu, bird flu)
    • References to a culture, industry or population
    • Words that cause unnecessary fear (i.e. unknown, fatal)
    • WHO is also taking submissions to replace the name monkeypox.

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