Scott B. Halstead’s “Reappearance of Chikungunya, Formerly Called Dengue, in the Americas” (Emerg. Infect. Dis. 21, April 2015) is an interesting look at a confusing situation of diseases and disease names; the abstract says:
After an absence of ≈200 years, chikungunya returned to the American tropics in 2013. The virus is maintained in a complex African zoonotic cycle but escapes into an urban cycle at 40- to 50-year intervals, causing global pandemics. In 1823, classical chikungunya, a viral exanthem in humans, occurred on Zanzibar, and in 1827, it arrived in the Caribbean and spread to North and South America. In Zanzibar, the disease was known as kidenga pepo, Swahili for a sudden cramp-like seizure caused by an evil spirit; in Cuba, it was known as dengue, a Spanish homonym of denga. During the eighteenth century, dengue (present-day chikungunya) was distinguished from breakbone fever (present-day dengue), another febrile exanthem. In the twentieth century, experiments resulted in the recovery and naming of present-day dengue viruses. In 1952, chikungunya virus was recovered during an outbreak in Tanzania, but by then, the virus had lost its original name to present-day dengue viruses.
There are sections on “The Chikungunya Epidemic of 1827–1828,” “Origin of the Term Dengue,” “Discovery of Chikungunya Pandemics,” “History of Disease Caused by Dengue Viruses,” and “History of Chikungunya Name Change.” One thing Halstead doesn’t explain is the morphology of the word chikungunya; he says that “in the Makonde language (spoken by an ethnic group in southeast Tanzania and northern Mozambique) [it] means that which bends up,” but the AHD adds the vital (for LH) information that it consists of “chi– sing. n. pref. + –kungunyala to become contorted, fold up (so called because joint pain causes sufferers from the disease to assume a hunched posture).” Thanks, Nick!