June 2016

That Which Bends Up

In 1955, the viral disease chikungunya was first described following an outbreak in what today is southeastern Tanzania. Characterized by fever and severe joint pain, the disease afflicted the Makonde tribe, principal dwellers of the region. The Makonde named the disease for its arthritis-like effects, which may last for years. Study of chikungunya provides a clear example of how deliberately transmission occurs. By 2013, the disease had been detected on five continents. By 2014, 12 locally transmitted cases had been verified in Florida and a total of 41 of the 50 United States had reported cases in travelers returning from affected areas.

Reported chikungunya cases (2015)
Pathogen Chikungunya virus
Vector Chikungunya is transmitted to humans primarily by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.

Tree of Life

The Makonde tribe is best known for a popular form of art called the “Tree of Life.” These ornate carvings signify the Makondes’ deep sense of community and belief in a common human ancestry.


Suspected number of chikungunya cases in the Americas in 2015 (through October 25).