The WHO will change the name of monkeypox while studying the possible sexual transmission

London — The World Health Organization has scheduled an emergency meeting for next week on the monkey pox outbreak to determine whether the virus should be classified as an international health threat. The agency is also investigating exactly how the disease spreads.

Tina Kraus of CBS News reports that the United Nations health agency is now exploring the possibility that monkeypox could be sexually transmitted, after the virus was found in the bodily fluids of patients in Italy and Germany. Catherine Smallwood, the WHO’s monkeypox incident director for Europe, said that among the cases identified on the continent, some “had semen tested for [the] and tested positive, so that’s something we’re looking at.” The agency has already said the disease, which has infected more than 1,600 people in 35 countries, including the US — spread through close physical contact.

In the UK, a survey of 152 monkeypox patients found that 99% identified as men who have sex with men, according to Britain’s Health Security Agency.

Across Europe, most infections have been among gay and bisexual men, but James McFadzean, who contracted monkeypox, said it was important not to stigmatize certain communities. “I think we have to be careful how we label it. It’s not, you know, a ‘gay disease,'” he said. “It’s a strange, tropical disease.”

The WHO is already working with experts to come up with a new name for the virus and the disease it causes after more than 30 international scientists complained that its current moniker is discriminatory.

“In the context of the current global outbreak, the continued reference and nomenclature that this virus is African is not only inaccurate but also discriminatory and stigmatizing,” they wrote.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency “will make announcements about the new names as soon as possible.”

He added that the current “global outbreak of monkeypox is clearly unusual and concerning.”

The global outbreak of #chickenpox it is clearly unusual and worrying. I have decided to convene the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations on Thursday of next week, to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.

— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) June 14, 2022

Europe remains the epicenter of the current outbreak, with around 85% of the world’s infections.

The disease, which was first discovered in African macaques, causes a rash that can resemble chicken pox. The virus originates from wild animals such as rodents, but occasionally jumps into human populations.

Most people recover from the virus within weeks, but in rare cases the illness can be fatal.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers protect themselves from monkeypox by wearing masks, and the WHO has urged people who contract the virus to use condoms during sex for 12 weeks as a precaution after your recovery.

US officials have said the country has many effective vaccines and treatments to respond to any further spread of the virus.

WHO studies the transmission of monkeypox

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