This 2003 electron microscopic (EM) image depicted a monkeypox virion, obtained from a clinical sample associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. It was a thin section image from of a human skin sample. On the left were mature, oval-shaped virus particles, and on the right were the crescents, and spherical particles of immature virions. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith/Russell Regnery/CDC via Bay City News)

State public health officials said Wednesday that they will avoid using the term monkeypox when possible going forward, referring to the virus instead as MPX.

The California Department of Public Health said it will refer to the virus as monkeypox on first reference in written communication and the abbreviation, pronounced M-pox, on all further references. State officials will also call the virus MPX when speaking.

“California’s Department of Public Health is aware of concerns of stigma associated with the name monkeypox, including racist connotations,” state Public Health Officer and CDPH Director Dr. Tomas Aragon said. “As such, CDPH has switched to using the acronym MPX while the World Health Organization explores renaming the disease.”

The WHO issued a set of best practices in 2015 for the naming of diseases, recommending that geographic locations, people’s names, species of animal or food and cultural, population or occupational references be avoided in the colloquial names of viruses and diseases.

“This may seem like a trivial issue to some, but disease names really do matter to the people who are directly affected,” Dr. Keiji Fukuda, a WHO assistant director-general from 2009-2016, said in 2015.

“We’ve seen certain disease names provoke a backlash against members of particular religious or ethnic communities, create unjustified barriers to travel, commerce and trade, and trigger needless slaughtering of food animals,” Fukuda said.

As of Wednesday. 3,065 probable and confirmed MPX cases have been reported statewide, including in all 11 counties in the greater Bay Area.

San Francisco continues to have the second-most reported cases in the state at 656.