What If Your Town Went “Viral?”

I'm a big fan of random facts. Meaning: I'm that geek at the cocktail party who delights in starting sentences with "Did you know that…?" I can't help it. (I'm also a crossword puzzle fiend, and perhaps the two are linked. Certainly, the tidbits come in handy!)

Anyways, in chatting with another mom of a toddler last week, we got to talking about something called coxsackievirus, a.k.a. hand, foot, and mouth disease. (It's a nasty little virus something that often affects little kids.)

But wait, what's that? Name sound familiar? Anyone who has driven the highways north of NYC will probably recognize that unique jumble of letters. The town is actually where the first viral specimens were collected, by a scientist in the late 1940s.

And that's not the only person or place that has had the honor (sometimes dubious) of lending its name to an ailment. Here are a few others you can file away—for use in Trivial Pursuit or for small talk during a lull at your next shindig.

Lyme Disease: Perhaps the best-known of town/disease pairings, the first outbreaks were identified in this leafy, rural community in Connecticut in 1975, but the virus, carried by deer ticks, has now been found in almost every state.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: A tick-borne bacteria first isolated in this breathtaking region. Unfortunately, it's spread beyond the range, all over the United States and experts want to ensure that doctors stay aware of its migration.

West Nile virus and Ebola virus. While the two diseases have little in common, I have to imagine that residents of these areas (the West Nile Valley and the Ebola River Valley, obviously) aren't too fond of their homelands being almost uniformly associated with such devastating diseases! (Ditto for the Hantan River Valley in Korea, for which the deadly rodent-borne hantavirus is named.)

But I think the worst (and certainly least scientific!) naming has to be a three-way tie between Montezuma's Revenge, Delhi Belly and the Karachi Crouch—each pointing accusatory fingers at the, err… culinary ups and downs of Latin American and India, respectively.