Monday, May 20, 2013

Origins of disease names

I recently read a book by Laurie Garrett called "The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance."

While reading the book I thought, "How do these diseases get their names?" Turns out that many
deadly diseases
diseases get their names from the geographic region in which they were first discovered.

Take these diseases, for instance:
  • Lyme disease -- Named after the Atlantic seaside town of Lyme, Conn. "The typical Lyme disease patient suffered localized skin reddenings that were indicative of insect bites, followed days to months later by skin lesions, meningitis, progressive muscular and joint pain, and arthritic symptoms." (pp. 553, "The Coming Plague")
  • Marburg virus -- Named after Marburg, Germany, where three factory workers became ill in August 1967. The Marburg virus is a hemorrhagic disease marked by "large tender lymph nodes along the throat, inflamed spleen, a marked drop in the number of disease-fighting white blood cells, and a sudden shortage of blood platelets and other factors that are necessary to stop bleeding." (pp. 54, "The Coming Plague")
  • Machupo -- Named after the Machupo River in Bolivia. Symptoms of Machupo include blood-filled eyes, leaking capillaries, and a bleeding esophageal lining. Some people with Machupo died within four days of contracting the hemorrhagic fever.
  • Ebola -- Named after a little river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the disease first appeared. Ebola virus disease symptoms start with an influenza-like stage and move to fever with chills, abdominal pain, hemorrhaging and more.
  • Lassa fever -- Named after the town in Nigeria were the first cases originated. Similar to Ebola, Lassa fever symptoms range from bloody vomiting and diarrhea to seizures and hemorrhaging.
In a way, I feel sorry that these geographic regions have deadly diseases named after them. I don't think that any of them are tourist hot spots (or ever will be). 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...