A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical VirusBook - 2012
The most fatal virus known to science, rabies kills nearly 100 percent of its victims once the infection takes root in the brain. A disease that spreads avidly from animals to humans, rabies has served throughout history as a symbol of savage madness, of inhuman possession. And today, its history can help shed light on the wave of emerging diseases, from AIDS to SARS to avian flu, that we now know to originate in animal populations.
From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh, fascinating, and often wildly entertaining look at one of mankind's oldest and most fearsome foes.
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Bill Wasik, a journalist, and Monica Murphy, a veterinarian with a background in public health, trace the history of rabies from ancient Mesopotamia to modern times. They provide an overview of the symptoms of its disease; discuss where it appears in the historical record; demonstrate how poorly the disease was understood until the French scientist Louis Pasteur introduced the germ theory of disease; consider how rabies may have influenced legends about vampires, werewolves, and zombies; discuss how Pasteur and scientists in his laboratory, notably Emile Roux, figured out how to create a vaccination for rabies; consider the threat posed by other zoonoses (diseases, like rabies, that are transmitted to humans by animals); discuss the extremely rare cases in which humans have survived rabies - a disease long thought to have a 100% mortality rate once it reaches the brain; examine a recent outbreak in Bali, focusing on what made it difficult to control; examine what a recent outbreak among racoons in New York and its presence in bats tells us about the difficulty of eradicating the disease.
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