Tessa's nonfiction book review: Rabid: a cultural history of the world's most diabolical virus by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

    Jacket coverOne of the new science titles, Rabid, out is a good study of the horrible disease, rabies. Rare in some parts of the world, this disease continues to ravage poorer areas in particular. But even the US and Michigan still have the occasional fatality.  A particularly awful example occurred here in Michigan in 2009.  Nine months previous, the victim had woken to find a bat crawling on his arm. He killed and disposed of the animal, thinking no more about it. In late October he became ill, gradually worsening until he went to a local emergency room on the 30th.  By November 4th he was comatose, removed from life support on the 11th. It is not unusual to be bitten by a bat and be unaware, as the bites are often tiny and painless.
    Once feared throughout the world more than almost any other disease, rabies has been reduced, and even eliminated in some places, through mandatory vaccinations of dogs (and cats). The book traces the history from ancient times through all sorts of strange cures and practices right up to Louis Pasteur and his colleagues development of the vaccine. On past that era, chapter eight records the failure of Bali's government to keep the island rabies-free, ignoring a 2008 outbreak until, finally, the disease spread to the entire island and has resisted the half-baked efforts to contain it.
    An ominous factoid jumped out at me in the accounts of the twentieth-century flu outbreaks. During the Spanish Flu outbreak 1917-1920, when 50-100 million people died, "reports trickled in about uncommon animal ailments...a shocking number of horses...primates, baboons and monkeys felled by the hundreds; in northern Ontario it was moose, dead in the brush. But most ravaged of all was the Iowan pig." This sounds darkly familiar, and it made me encourage family and friends to get their flu shots, for whatever value it may hold. ~Tessa  3.75 out of 5 stars



The book sounds fascinating;

The book sounds fascinating; I will be adding it to my "to read" list.

Did the book mention Jenna Giese? APM's The Story featured her last year because she is the only known surviver of fullblown rabies.

Tessa's picture

Yes, they talked about her!

Yes, there was an in-depth chapter on current treatments which included her case.