African and European virologists have posted a gravely stupid Monkeypox screed to the Virological discussion board, warning against the danger of stigmatising nomenclature, because this is totally their field and we have nothing else to worry about right now.
There are so many risible passages to choose from, I guess I’ll just go in order:
The prevailing perception in the international media and scientific literature is that MPXV is endemic in people in some African countries. However, it is well established that nearly all MPXV outbreaks in Africa prior to the 2022 outbreak, have been the result of spillover from animals to humans and only rarely have there been reports of sustained human-to-human transmissions. In the context of the current global outbreak, continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing.
Monkeypox is a virus that is endemic in animal hosts in Africa, and to an unknown degree probably also among people in Africa. Monkeypox is an African virus; Africa is where Monkeypox comes from. I never cared that much about this fact before, but I do now. Good job idiot virologists.
Although the origin of the new global MPXV outbreak is still unknown, there is growing evidence that the most likely scenario is that cross-continent, cryptic human transmission has been ongoing for longer than previously thought. However, there is an increasing narrative in the media and among many scientists that are trying to link the present global outbreak to Africa or West Africa, or Nigeria.
What is even the argument here? The fact that we did not notice that Monkeypox (which is an African virus) had come to Europe from Africa, until a few years after it arrived in Europe from Africa, does not mean that it gets to not be from Africa now. The sequences published so far are all related to a virus introduced to the West from Nigeria (an African country) before 2019. Monkeypox is an African virus.
Further, the use of geographical labels for strains of MPXV, specifically, references to the 2022 outbreak as belonging to the “West African” or “Western African” clade, strain, or genotype. We therefore believe that a nomenclature that is neutral, non-discriminatory and non-stigmitizing will be more appropriate for the global health community.
There is no European privilege I treasure more, than the ability to speak of the Marburg Virus or the Spanish Influenza without it ever occurring to me for a nanosecond that I should take offence or care about these names.