Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Review: Rabid by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

Rabies is the deadliest disease known to humankind and is still almost 100% fatal. It has been terrifying people for as long as we have recorded history. In Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus, Wasik and Murphy look at the history of rabies, the relationship between man and dog, the myths of werewolves and vampires, which might originate with rabies, the search for a vaccine, current treatment options, and hope for defanging rabies in the future throughout this thoroughly researched book. This can be slow and dry and there are quite a few extended digressions from the disease at hand. It was interesting enough to learn the method by which rabies sidesteps the human immune system and the ways in which it continues to spread around the world through unvaccinated dogs and in the US via bats. In an effort to make it accessible to a general audience, the authors didn't overwhelm the reader with a lot of technical science but that left them with less than a books' worth of information definitively about rabies. What is presented, and much of it is at best merely speculated to be connected to rabies, often incredibly tenuously, is almost entirely within the cultural sphere. That's unfortunate because the cultural history was not nearly as interesting as I'd hoped, even adding in information about zombies, wild (and ineffective) old time remedies, and ways in which rabies is depicted in books and movies among other things. You really have to be invested in rabies to find this an interesting read.

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