Monkeypox isn’t exactly the most fitting name for a disease that’s infected many, and scientists want to do something about it.
The disease is spreading fast, being contracted from person to person, with gay men having higher odds of catching it. Monkeypox is similar to smallpox and, per the New York Times, obtained its name in the 50s, after Danish scientists first spotted the virus in lab monkeys.
Now that monkeypox has grown into a global concern, public health experts have been urging responsible parties to come up with a new name for the virus, one that’s more accurate and based on facts. They hope that by doing this they can quiet homophobic, racist and ignorant rhetoric.
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Dr. Tulio de Oliveira, who works in a university in South Africa, wrote an open letter alongside other scientists to the World Health Organization, asking them to change the disease’s name as soon as possible. “Names matter, and so does scientific accuracy, especially for pathogens and epidemics that we are trying to control,” he said.
The open letter criticized the media coverage of the issue, which makes it appear like the disease came from Africa and like the majority of the spread remains on that region, which is not true. Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, a public health expert in Nigeria, called the monkeypox spread reminiscent of the AIDS crisis, a time when Africa was blamed on the spread of the pandemic due to poor medical attention. He says that the fact that monkeypox affects men who sleep with men makes the two situations all the more similar.
Concerns regarding the spread of monkeypox are rising in the U.S., with there being over 16,000 cases. While there are vaccines, there are shortages and misinformation, resulting in a confusing enviroment.
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The disease spreads through person to person contact and can be caught via contaminated surfaces. While children and women can get it, men who have sex with men are the demographic that’s more exposed.
On August 5th, a report from the CDC said that 99% of monkeypox cases ocurred among men, with 94% of them reporting recent sexual contact with males. This is why it’s important for these men to get their vaccines, especially if they live in a big city or an area where there are a lot of cases.