Why Ebola is capitalized but diabetes isn’t
Ebola and West Nile virus are capitalized. But why? Not every disease is. Here’s a quick explanation, drawn from style guides and assorted other readings:
Diseases named after regions are capitalized.
Ebola is the name of a river in Zaire, and it was near the Ebola River that the virus first caused disease in humans. Thus, the disease became known as the Ebola virus.
West Nile in West Nile virus is capitalized for a similar reason: It was first found in a patient in the West Nile district of northern Uganda.
Diseases named after people are capitalized.
Some disease names are capitalized because they are named after the person who discovered them. For example, Alzheimer’s disease is named after a German doctor named Alois Alzheimer, and Down’s syndrome is named after a British doctor named John Langdon Down.
Should disease names have apostrophes? Alzheimer’s disease versus Alzheimer disease?
Somewhat peripheral to our capitalization question: When people start considering disease names, they often wonder why some have apostrophes and some don’t, and why you sometimes see the same name written with and without an apostrophe.
You sometimes see disease names such as Alzheimer (without the apostrophe) because there is a movement to omit the apostrophe from names based on the discovering physician. Some patient advocacy groups have lobbied that the apostrophe implies the disease belongs to the physician and that such names are inappropriate.
On the other hand, the argument that an apostrophe means the doctors own the disease is linguistically simplistic, and the sentime Continue reading