Hadrian's Reviews > Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus

Rabid by Bill Wasik
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's review
Aug 15, 12

bookshelves: nonfiction, medicine, history, society-culture-anthropology-etc
Read in August, 2012

Rabies is a disease and a meaning so old and so fearsome, it is out of an ancestral nightmare. The body convulses. The mouth froths with rage. The virus is one of a few which attacks the nerves, leading the victim to periods of mania and lethargy, and death is almost certain if prophylaxis is not given before the symptoms worsen to this extent.

This is ostensibly a cultural history, but it is also good public health history and good journalism. The book starts with folklore and science from werewolves to Pasteur, and speculates that the Rage of Hector in the Iliad (Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Achilles) may be an allusion to rabies.

A more fearsome episode takes place in Bali, which had to undertake a radical vaccination and quarantine program to save its hunting dog population.

Although rabies exists far from those of us in the West, it is still a reality for those in Africa and South Asia. For us, this is a good little scare.
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