Africa CDC says renaming monkeypox varieties curbs stigma

KAMPALA, Uganda — The head of the African public health agency says he is “very happy” that the World Health Organization is renaming the monkeypox disease strains to remove references to African regions amid concerns over stigma.

The disease variant formerly known as the Congo Basin is now called Clade 1 and what was previously known as the West African clade is now Clade 2, the UN health organization announced last week and said it will hold an open forum to rename Monkeypox. all together.

“We are very pleased to now be able to call them Clade 1 and Clade 2 instead of referring to these variants with African regions,” Ahmed Ogwell, acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a briefing. Thursday. “We are very pleased with that name change, which will remove the stigma of disease-causing variants.”

More monkey pox deaths have been reported this year on the African continent than anywhere else in the world. A total of 3,232 cases, including 105 deaths, have been reported in Africa, although only a fraction have been confirmed due to the continent’s insufficient 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 countries of Ghana and Nigeria report 90% of new cases. Liberia, the Republic of the Congo and South Africa are the other countries reporting new cases.

Ogwell, who urged the international community to help Africa’s 54 countries improve their ability to test for monkeypox and control its spread, said he had no epidemiological insights to share regarding the disease. spread of monkeypox in Africa.

But he noted that while 98% of cases involve men who have sex with men outside Africa, what happens on the continent of 1.3 billion people “doesn’t reflect what other parts of the world see.”

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“Our focus is on capacity building so that any country at risk is ready to quickly identify these cases,” he said.

However, other scientists have dismissed the attempt to rename monkeypox as an unnecessary distraction as the global outbreak continues.

Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian virologist who sits on several World Health Organization advisory groups, said he saw no point in renaming monkeypox.

“All other poxviruses are named after animals,” he said, citing cowpox, sheeppox and rabbit pox as examples. “If we’re going to rename diseases, where does it end? Are we renaming Lassa fever and Marburg virus? What about the Spanish flu?” asked Tomori. Lassa fever is named after the Nigerian city where the disease was first diagnosed and Marburg is also named after the German city where scientists first identified the severe hemorrhagic fever.

The WHO has said it has no plans to rename other diseases at this time.

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib this week said it is “important to involve as many audiences as possible, as many people as possible” to suggest names. “I’m sure we won’t come up with a ridiculous name,” she said. “(It is) the WHO’s responsibility to rename diseases when they are stigmatizing. But for now, the plan is to (rename) monkeypox.”

The spread of monkeypox usually requires skin-to-skin or skin-to-mouth contact with an infected patient’s lesions. People can also become infected through contact with the clothing or sheets of someone with monkeypox lesions.

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

The variant of monkeypox that is spreading in Europe and North America has a lower mortality rate than that in Africa, where people are usually sick after contact with infected wild animals such as rodents and squirrels.

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AP journalists Maria Cheng in London and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed.

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