Renaming Monkeypox Variants Prevents Stigma: Top African Health Official

The WHO earlier said it's working towards changing Monkeypox's name as it's 'not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatising'.

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Days after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the renaming of two variants of Monkeypox virus, the head of the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said he is "really pleased" with the action and that it would curb stigma. 

The WHO on Saturday announced that Congo Basin and West African variants of Monkeypox have been renamed as Clade I and Clade II. 

Earlier, the WHO has said that it is open to the idea of renaming Monkeypox entirely as the names given an idea that the virus comes from monkeys, which is not the case. 

Monkeypox is named after monkeys because the disease was first identified in 1958 in two outbreaks of a pox-like disease in colonies of monkeys kept for research, according to US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

It further noted, "Despite being named 'monkeypox', the source of the disease remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) may harbour the virus and infect people."

Ahmed Ogwell, acting director of the Africa CDC, said on Thursday, "We are very glad that now we can be able to call them Clade 1 and Clade 2 rather than make reference to these variants using African regions. We are really pleased with that change in naming, which will remove stigma from disease-causing variants."

More Monkeypox deaths have been reported on the African continent this year than anywhere in the world. 

A total of 3,232 cases, including 105 deaths, have been reported in Africa, although only a fraction have been confirmed because the continent lacks enough diagnostic resources.

At least 285 new cases have been reported since the agency's last briefing a week ago, Ogwell said, adding that the West African nations of Ghana and Nigeria are reporting 90 per cent of new cases. 

Liberia, Republic of Congo and South Africa are the other nations reporting new cases.

Ogwell, who urged the international community to help Africa's 54 countries improve their capacity to test for Monkeypox and control its spread, said he had no epidemiological insights to share regarding the spread of Monkeypox in Africa. But he noted that while 98 per cent of cases are in men who have sex with men outside Africa, what's happening on the continent of 1.3 billion people "does not reflect what other parts of the world are seeing".

“Our focus is capacity-building so that each and every country that is at risk is ready to be able to identify these cases quickly,” he said.

Monkeypox spreads through close or intimate contact with someone who has the infection. It can be a human as well as a human. It can also spread through contact with a contaminated item, such as bedding, according to Healthline.

It lists the following ways the virus spreads: 

  • blood
  • bodily fluids
  • skin or mucous lesions
  • respiratory droplets, for human-to-human contact

The human-to-human infection usually spreads through "prolonged face-to-face contact and large respiratory droplets. This might happen if you’re within a 6-foot radius with someone who has it for 3 hours or longer", according to Healthline.

Most people infected with monkeypox recover without treatment, but it can cause more severe symptoms like brain inflammation and in rare cases, death.

The variant of Monkeypox spreading in Europe and North America has a lower fatality rate than the one circulating in Africa, where people have mostly been sickened after contact with infected wild animals like rodents and squirrels. 

(With AP inputs)