Review: Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus
Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was a child in Texas, contracting rabies from being bitten by wild dogs or bats was a very real danger; we kids circulated the rumor amongst ourselves that the only cure was twenty shots in the stomach with a foot-long syringe. As it turns out, it doesn’t take quite that many, and the syringe is just a regular syringe–but fear of this mysterious disease has existed since the dawn of time.

Rabid is an excellent overview of the fascination and horror that rabies has had for people for millennia. Ancient “cures” could sometimes be worse than the disease, and the only treatment that (sometimes) worked was cauterization and bloodletting immediately after the bite; otherwise, a lingering, painful death was inevitable within a month or so. Louis Pasteur pioneered the first vaccination against rabies, which has saved countless lives, but has tended to blunt people’s understanding and awareness of this still-extant disease.

Highly recommended for anyone who loves a good cultural history.

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