A maddened creature, frothing at the mouth, lunges at an innocent victim—and, with a bite, transforms its prey into another raving monster. It’s a scenario that underlies our darkest tales of supernatural horror, but its power derives from a very real virus, a deadly scourge known to mankind from our earliest days. In this fascinating exploration, journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy chart four thousand years in the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies.
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.
Rabies has not only wreaked havoc for 4,000 years on man and his best friend but also mirrors the history of medicine while generating vampire images that still frighten and fascinate us. In this ambitious and smart history of the virus, Wired senior editor Waski (And Then There s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture) and public health and veterinary expert Murphy (who are husband and wife) start with the Greeks and their love-hate relationship with their hounds, move to the Middle Ages when Islamic scholars made the first real advances in understanding the disease and barrel through to the revolutionary germ theory discoveries of the late 19th century. The authors track how science tried to tame the scourge, with its ravaging neurological effects. Yet the rare tales of modern survivors only underscore that, despite the existence of treatment through a series of injections, we re at a stalemate in conquering rabies. Look for delightful detours into cultural manifestations of our fear of rabies, including a survey of vampire, werewolf, and zombie literature and films from Charlotte Bront to Anne Rice, and right up to the Twilight series.