5 Diseases named after places

The tranquil town of Schmallenberg is also one of the places after which a disease was named Photo: Getty Images

From TRAVELBOOK | 31. January 2022, 12:52 pm

When a new disease or virus is discovered, it is often named after the place where it first appeared. For the cities and regions a dubious honor, this promotes the notoriety of the place, but not necessarily their image. TRAVELBOOK about "really sick" places.

Did you know that the city of Marburg is often associated abroad primarily with nasty viruses instead of the pretty university town it actually is? Or, that there is a disease called Philadelphia? And most people have never heard of the Ebola flux either. Yet there are some diseases that have been named after places. TRAVELBOOK lists five of them.


Once Schmallenberg had a good reputation. Families spent their vacations here in the Hochsauerland, hikers found exciting trails in the area, and allergy sufferers: hotels and guesthouses with the best, because allergy-friendly conditions. But then suddenly a few cattle became ill- and researchers at the German Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute (FLI) discovered a previously unknown pathogen as the cause. Since it did not yet have a name, it was simply named after the place where it was found: Schmallenberg virus.

Since then, Schmallenberg no longer stands for vacation and family happiness, but for the horror of all farmers, an animal disease transmitted by gnats (bearded gnats) and other mosquitoes. The 25.000-inhabitant municipality had still tried to prevent the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI) from naming the disease. Without success. But perhaps Schmallenberg is also benefiting from the hype surrounding the town. Finally, the virus cannot be transmitted to humans, so vacationers are safe.


Marburg has an enchanting old town but also a terrible disease named after the city Photo: Getty Images

Marburg really doesn’t deserve this: the old town can be so pretty, life there so idyllic- Abroad, people think of Marburg first and foremost as a place of death and horror. The culprit is a life-threatening disease that was named after the town. The killer virus causes people to bleed to death internally and first broke out in the city in the summer of 1967.

At first it looked like the flu: the sick had a high fever and headaches and aching limbs. But soon their blood vessels became permeable, internal bleeding occurred- and within a few days five of the 24 infected died. The patients were laboratory workers at Marburg’s Behring Works and had all come into contact with vervet monkeys from Africa. The pharmaceutical company used it to produce a vaccine against polio.

The "Marburg Monkey Disease the deadly disease was first named. Shortly afterwards, the hitherto unknown virus was identified, hence the "Marburg virus". It was not until about 40 years later that the presumed host animal was identified: The Nile fruit bat, a species of bat that lives in Europe and Africa, apparently acts as a carrier of the virus. The virus is transmitted from person to person similar to the AIDS pathogen HIVvia smear infections of bodily fluids.

In Germany, the disease has never been seen again since the outbreak in Marburg. For it from Africa- Angola, Uganda, Congo- regularly reported epidemics in which several hundred people die. But Marburg still has the virus: research on the virus is being carried out here under the highest security level four. And apparently they don’t have much of a problem in Marburg with the killer virus being named like the city: enlarged Marburg viruses are depicted on the facade of the new laboratory building inaugurated in 2007. Unmissable.


Tuscany is not only a dream vacation destination, but also the namesake of a disease Photo: Getty Images

Tuscany virus is not the tingling sensation that regularly afflicts many a fan of Italy and can only be cured by booking the next Tuscany vacation. No, the Tuscany virus is actually a disease, or more precisely, a meningitis (symptoms: general weakness, severe headaches, nausea, vomiting and a stiff neck), which subsides after a few days and only rarely causes permanent nerve damage.

Ühe virus is probably transmitted by sandflies, which appreciate the warm climate in Tuscany and are particularly common there. They sting exclusively at night, at first the stings are not felt, only in the following days develop very itchy wheals. You can protect yourself with an effective mosquito repellent, mosquito nets and repellents.

In 2010, the virus was also detected in this country for the first time. In the statistically warmest corner of Germany, in the southwest near the Upper Rhine, the Tuscany virus has taken up residence. To make the confusion complete: In addition to the Tuscany virus, there is also the Sicily virus and the Naples virus, which is also the so-called sand fly fever.


Philadelphia on the east coast of the USA is associated with several diseases at once Photo: Getty Images

For cinephiles, it should be clear what disease in the world is associated with the fifth largest city in the United States. In the Oscar-winning film "Philadelphia" from the year 1993 Tom Hanks plays an AIDS patient. Bruce Springsteen’s theme song has become an anthem for all people suffering from the immunodeficiency disease. But it was another serious disease that was actually named after the town on the east coast of the U.S.

In 1960, Peter Nowell and David Hungerford discovered a shortened chromosome 22 in the leukemia cells of a patient. This was the first time they identified a chromosome change. It may be linked to the development of cancer. And what did they call the chromosome? Since they were in Philadelphia, quite simply: the Philadelphia chromosome.

Ebola flow

Ähilar to Marburg fever is Ebola fever, whose latest and largest epidemic to date has been raging in West Africa for just over a year. More than 20.000 people have contracted Ebola fever here so far, 8000 people have died from it. The media often reported about the disease. But did you know what place the disease was actually named after? After the Ebola River, a branch of the Congo River, where the fever first appeared.

Major outbreaks have been recorded since 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), the Republic of Congo, what is now South Sudan, Uganda and Gabon- And since early 2014 in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The disease is fatal in 50 to 90 percent of all cases. To date there are- As with Marburg disease- No vaccine or treatment. Ebola has not yet appeared in Germany.

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