New York City reports first two monkeypox deaths hours after city renames disease to avoid ‘stigma’

Just hours after the city announced a new, less “stigmatizing” name for the disease, monkeypox claimed its first two deaths in New York City.

“We are deeply saddened by the two reported deaths and our hearts go out to the individuals’ loved ones and community,” the state’s Department of Health said in a statement, according to local station ABC7. “Every effort will be made to prevent additional suffering from this virus through continued community engagement, information-sharing, and vaccination.”

While the disease is not normally fatal, in both cases, the patients who passed from monkeypox-related illnesses suffered from underlying conditions that made them more vulnerable and placed them at a higher risk for complications.

The sad news came just hours after the NYC health department updated its website to reflect a new name for the disease.

“Moving forward, the Health Department will refer to the virus as MPV,” the statement reads. “The previous name is an inaccurate and stigmatizing label for a virus that is primarily affecting a community that has already suffered a long history of bigotry.”

“Stigma is a shadow affliction that can follow viruses and drive people away from care, even when the illness itself is treatable,” the agency explained. “The Department requested the World Health Organization change the name, and continues to urge global health authorities to make this modification universal. However, the equity considerations are too great to wait any longer.”

In light of the fatalities, it is unclear how changing the name of the disease from “monkeypox” to something that literally stands for “monkeypox virus” will make anyone feel better.

Though rare, two additional MPV deaths in Chicago and one death in both Nevada and Maryland were recorded last week, the Daily Mail reports.

As with the cases in the Big Apple, the Chicago Department of Health confirmed that multiple underlying conditions, including weak immune systems, were present in both of its fatalities.

“Though the number of new MPV cases has declined substantially since summer, this is a stark reminder that MPV is dangerous and can cause serious illness, and in very rare cases, even death,” Chicago Department of Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said on Friday.

According to the most recent data from New York City’s health department, there are currently 3,703 recorded cases of MPV, as of October 18.

Manhattan is seeing the most cases, with 1,469 recorded.

The data suggests most NYC cases occur in men (3,466 compared to just 88 women), ages 25 to 34.

As of October 21, the CDC reports a total of 27,884 cases in the United States with 6 fatalities and 75,348 cases globally.

“At this time, data suggest that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up the majority of cases in the current monkeypox outbreak,” the CDC states. “However, anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, who has been in close, personal contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk.”

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