ANKARA – The World Health Organization (WHO) is working to change the name of the monkeypox virus, which has been spreading in many parts of the world in recent months, it said on Tuesday.

The "WHO is also working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of monkeypox virus, its clades and the disease it causes," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing in Geneva. "We will make an announcement about the new names as soon as possible."

The move came after a group of 30 scientists wrote in a position paper there was an “urgent need” to change the virus name, calling it “stigmatizing."

They argued that referencing the virus as African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory.

Tedros said more than 1,600 confirmed cases have been reported from 39 countries – seven countries where monkeypox has been detected for years, and 32 newly-affected countries.

The "WHO’s goal is to support countries to contain transmission and stop the outbreak with tried-and-tested public health tools including surveillance, contact-tracing and isolation of infected patients," he added.

He said the WHO also published interim guidance on the use of smallpox vaccines for monkeypox, saying the global health body "does not recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox."

The WHO chief said since the monkeypox outbreak is "unusual and concerning," he convened an emergency meeting next week "to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern." (Anadolu)