Search This Blog

Tuesday, 13 June 2017


Rabies is an infectious disease that can be passed on by animals to humans. The disease is transmitted through the saliva and the blood. The usual form of getting it is a bite of a rabid mammal.

The disease causes acute encephalitis (a sudden inflammation in the brain). Generally, people (and animals) die from rabies. However, those who are treated soon after becoming infected have a chance to survive.

A person with rabies, 1959

The ancient city of Eshnuna in Sumeria was aware of the causes of rabies, which they realized humans could catch from dogs. They had a law setting out the punishment for somebody who allowed a mad dog to escape and bite somebody.

The variegated oil beetle was used as a treatment for rabies in the 19th century.

On July 6, 1885, nine-year-old Joseph Meister became the first person to be inoculated against rabies. Dr Louis Pasteur had been experimenting with a vaccine made from a weakened strain of rabies virus grown in rabbits developed from dog saliva, After Joseph was beaten by a rabid dog, he was taken to Dr. Pasteur's surgery where he was treated with an untested version of the vaccine. The treatment was successful and the boy did not develop rabies. Within days, Dr Pasteur found his surgery besieged by crowds of dog bite victims.

Joseph Meister

Pasteur kept a steady of supply of infected animals in the basement of the Parisian lab. As part of their research, the Frenchman and his assistants routinely pinned down rabid dogs and collected vials of their foamy saliva. If one of the assistants was bitten, his colleagues were under orders to shoot him in the head.

 In 1897, the UK passed a General Rabies Order that dogs be muzzled in public to prevent rabies.

In 2006, China slaughtered 50,000 dogs after three people died of rabies. Dogs being walked were seized from their owners and beaten to death on the spot. Owners were offered 63 cents per animal to kill their own dogs before the beating teams were sent in.

Rabies caused about 17,400 deaths worldwide in 2015, More than 95% of human deaths caused by rabies occur in Africa and Asia.

In the USA, there are now only one or two cases of rabies in humans annually, most often transmitted by bites from bats.

Vultures have no problem eating an animal infected with rabies, a disease that would ultimately be lethal to most other scavengers. In fact by eating the carcasses of dead rabid animals, vultures prevent the spread of the disease.

No comments:

Post a Comment