Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
— George Gershwin / DuBose Heyward
The myriad pleasures of summer are perfectly encapsulated in the song “Summertime” made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and others. It is traditionally a time to frolic outdoors and be carefree. But for summer-loving humans, it comes with its own set of risks and dangers as well, from sunburn and poison ivy to pesky mosquitoes and under-barbecued burgers.
The same applies to our beloved pets. While dogs and cats love to explore outside when the weather turns warm, it is important to remember there are hidden perils in even the most serene and halcyonic settings that can put their health and very lives at risk.
The full subtitle of this book neatly encapsulates its theme and tone: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus. Note that it identifies itself not as a general or scientific history, but as a “cultural” one. This is an accurate descriptive; for truly, few diseases known to humanity have branded themselves into our collective psyche and culture so widely, so deeply, and for so long; and as something not merely organically deadly but infernally so, and thus profoundly to be feared. (The few others that even come close include leprosy and polio.)
Though shelved in the non-fiction area of your library or bookstore, Rabid spins a series of tales and observations that could have come from the fictional horror story pen of Stephen King. It is at once fascinating and terrifying. The authors, a husband-and-wife team, are eminently qualified to write such a book. Wasik is a magazine editor who writes about science and technology; while Murphy is a veterinarian with a degree in public health. Together they have put together the definitive “biography” of the rabies pathogen. Continue reading “Book Review: Rabid—A Cultural History“
Rabies is a scourge as old as human civilization, and the terror of its manifestation is a fundamental human fear, because it challenges the boundary of humanity itself. That is, it troubles the line where man ends and animal begins—for the rabid bite is the visible symbol of the animal infecting the human, of an illness in a creature metamorphosing demonstrably into that same illness in a person.
With the release of our line of 2020 Pet Rabies Tags for our customers’ dogs and cats, we at Ketchum Mfg. Inc. thought this would be an appropriate time to present a timeline of notable events in the rise of—and ongoing battle against—a pathogen that has plagued humankind and our domesticated animals since long before the first history book was written: the rabies virus. Continue reading “A Brief History of Rabies”
It may seem odd to associate such a horrific and deadly disease as rabies with “popularity.” It is anything but! Yet since prehistoric times that is exactly how humankind has dealt psychologically with our most memorable tragedies and primal fears: by telling stories about them and depicting them in our art. This is the very essence of “whistling past the graveyard,” as the old phrase goes.
The term rabies comes from a Latin word meaning “madness.” Surely that is one of the reasons this pathogen has always inspired so much fear: for in the process of killing its host, it first destroys the mind, which is the seat of an individual’s personality. Indeed, some of the most familiar and frightening horror creatures in popular culture—vampires, werewolves, and zombies—are derived from mythologies that harken back to the days when a normal, healthy person could be suddenly transformed into a raving, drooling monster just from the bite of a maddened beast.
Those little metal pet rabies tags you attach to your dog or cat’s collar are much more than jingling baubles. Rather, they are shining insignia that represent one of humankind’s great victories over a centuries-old scourge.
The annals of recorded medical history are dotted with numerous spectacularly terrifying diseases and pandemics. Some of the most notable include:
The Antonine Plague of 165 A.D., which killed some 5 million people and decimated the Roman army. It is believed to have been a smallpox or measles epidemic, brought back to Italy by soldiers returning from Mesopotamia.
Bubonic Plague—better known as the Black Death of the Middle Ages—a deadly bacterial infection, spread by fleas and rats, that ravaged three continents and took an estimated 200 million lives.
The Flu Pandemic of 1918, which was a perversely lethal strain of influenza that tore across the globe and struck down an estimated 50 million otherwise healthy, robust young adults.
HIV/AIDS, which has racked up a combined death toll of 36 million worldwide since it appeared on the scene in 1981.