How Spain got blamed for the Spanish flu — and where to find Ebola on a map

Plus: The careers of ex-MPs; Scotland’s fiscal balance; and Muslim attitudes to homosexuality

16 May 2015

9:00 AM

16 May 2015

9:00 AM

Plagued by stigma

The World Health Organisation told doctors to stop naming diseases after people, places and animals so as not to stigmatise them. But are diseases even really associated with things that gave them their name?
— Spanish flu. First identified in an army hospital in Kansas in March 1918. It gained its name because Spain was a neutral country, and uncensored newspaper reports made it appear uniquely affected. Subsequent theories have had it originating in China or at an army camp in France.
— Legionnaires’ disease. First identified after an outbreak at a convention of the American Legion at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Philadelphia, in July 1976.
— Ebola. First recorded in the village of Yambaku, Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1976, by a Belgian doctor, Peter Piot. He named it after the Ebola river, 60 miles away, so as not to stigmatise the village.

Commons people

What awaits defeated MPs? A 2007 study of 184 ex-MPs by Leeds University found:
21% found work almost immediately.
32% found work within three months.
21% within six months.
13% within 12 months.
14% were unemployed after a year.
When they did find work:
40% were worse off.
20% earned about the same as an MP.
36% were better off.
4% were worse off initially but were better off within five years.

Scotland’s cash

Nicola Sturgeon went cool on full fiscal autonomy for Scotland. A possible reason:

2015/16 -4%
2016/17 -2%
2017/18 -0.6%
2018/19 +0.2%

Source: Government Revenue and Expenditure Scotland

2015/16 -8.6%
2016/17 -6.8%
2017/18 -5.4%
2018/19 -4.6%

Source: Government Revenue and Expenditure Scotland

Living in sin

Gay Muslims were reported to be joining Isis because of hostility from fellow Muslims in Britain. What percentage of Muslims believe homosexuality is morally wrong — and how does it compare with attitudes towards sex outside marriage?

South-east Europe 83%
Central Asia 85%
South-east Asia 95%
Middle East/N. Africa 93%

Source: Pew Research Institute

Sex outside marriage
South-east Europe 67%
Central Asia 85%
South-east Asia 95%
Middle East/N. Africa 94%

Source: Pew Research Institute

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  • Callipygian

    Was Lou Gehrig stigmatized by having ‘Lou Gehrig’s disease’ named for him? He was a famous American baseball player of the 1920s and 30s. The disease is now called ALS, which I can’t spell out as I don’t know what it stands for, but it’s a motor-neuron disease and highly unpleasant in its advanced phases, though fortunately my f-in-law died a year into it rather than discovering the full truth of that.

    If we’re going to object to naming, a stronger case could be made against naming new laws after victims (e.g. the Brady bill, subsequently the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1994: Brady was permanently injured in the gun attack on President Reagan). Law after all is not done as personal or private retribution for particular victims: law represents society as a whole and therefore must remain fair and decently dispassionate. It is not a vendetta pursued on behalf of this or that complainant.

    But ultimately, does it matter really what we call the evils of the world and the means of fixing them, as long as we are not too inaccurate?