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2.0 out of 5 starsbut was left feeling like it missed the mark
Reviewed in the United States on November 19, 2017
As a veterinarian, I was excited to read this book, but was left feeling like it missed the mark. There were so many aspects of the disease that were ignored: the paradigm shift that cats are a bigger concern than dogs, the various strains of the disease with their preferred hosts, the agonizing cases where beloved pets are euthanized premptively after exposure to wildlife, the baffling cases in livestock. Take it from someone who has sawn off more than a few heads in the fight against rabies.....there is so much more to the story!
4.0 out of 5 starsImportant addition to books about disease.
Reviewed in the United States on July 23, 2016
I've been working my way through as many books on diseases as I can possibly manage. Part of it is sheer curiosity, and basically 'awe and respect' for bacteria and viruses that cause so many of our illnesses. I've been reading about this stuff since the 1990's when I was in school, and then med school. Bacteria and viruses have been here before we were, and may be here after we leave. And as anyone who teaches microbiology and pathophysiology will tell you, some of these viruses and bacteria can alter themselves to gain resistance. And we keep finding new ones to have to worry about like Zika.
Having had past experience with a rabid raccoon who sat on my porch, and then threatened me when I went outside, I definitely wanted to read up on this particular 'monster'. I put this book Rabid on my 'wish' list probably two years ago. So I was thrilled to finally get it and read it. Even though this book was slow in areas where the authors went off on tangents that were remotely acquainted with the topic, the book did meet my own specifications for reading a book like this. It gave historical background, it discussed what the disease is, how it is caused, the background for the vaccine, interesting case studies that have occurred recently. For the most part, I thought the book was well-written.
This is still probably one of the most frightening diseases on the planet...even with Ebola out there. Though we can vaccinate to prevent the disease and have a way to help someone who has been bitten if we get to them early enough, people still die from this agonizing disease even in the United States. I think one of the most important parts of this book was the fact that we still have no good treatments for people who were bitten and didn't know they were exposed to rabies, and so they went for treatment too late. Just this section alone should be read by everyone...then it would impress on people how important it is to get your animals vaccinated, and how important it is to avoid contact with wildlife that may harbor the rabies virus. I think of how many times I've seen children go up and touch a wild animal like a squirrel or chipmunk...and if people read this chapter on this lack of treatment, they wouldn't let their child near something that is wild. (Besides, it isn't safe for the animals either...)
3.0 out of 5 starsToo much of vampires and not enough of virology
Reviewed in the United States on May 2, 2014
I enjoyed the book but at times my frustration waxed as the author devoted an inordinate amount of space on the connections (or possible connections) between the disease caused by the rabies virus and the classic subjects of horror stories and films: vampires, werewolves and zombies. There were times when I came close to doing the unthinkable when I buy a book for leisure reading (as opposed to reference etc)- skip sections. At best 5 or 6 pages could have been devoted to the tangential connection between the rabies in popular culture and these denizens of horror literature. I just grew really tired of reading about zombies when I bought a book to read about rabies. The book is also very light on the fascinating biology of the virus itself and how it enters neurons, replicates and propagates. It seems kind of ridiculous that there can be tens of pages on zombies and vampires and essentially nothing on the molecular machinery of the virus and its transmission through an infected organism. I realize that this isn't a book on rabies virology but it is a subject which I expected to be covered in detail rather than in passing.
4.0 out of 5 starsThe science, history, and literature of rabies
Reviewed in the United States on May 23, 2020
"Rabid" is an especially important and entertaining book for all of us whose current reading is focused on the literature of disease and pandemics. A word I've learned in just the past few months is "zoonosis," referring to diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans. AIDS, swine flu, bubonic plague, EBOLA, and COVID-19 are all in this category. Rabies is indeed the most terrifying zoonotic since the mortality rate once the viral infection becomes advanced is practically 100%. Given the practical certainty of death and the gruesome sufferings of the afflicted, this is indeed a "diabolical virus" as described in the book's subtitle.
"Rabid" has several especially memorable chapters. One examines the origins of werewolves and vampires in literature and popular culture given the association of rabies with dogs and bats. We learn here of a "great vampire boom" in Europe in the early 18th century and of the literary precursors of Bram Stoker's "Dracula," which appeared in 1897. Another chapter recognizes the contribution of the 1953 novel, "I Am Legend," by Richard Matheson that provided a template for the zombie apocalypse in works like "World War Z" and "The Walking Dead" and directly influenced George Romero ("Night of the Living Dead") and Stephen King. And I especially liked the chapter on Louis Pasteur which culminates with his discovery in 1884 of a rabies vaccine. The authors speculate that Zora Neale Hurston may have been influenced by a 1936 biopic of Pasteur at the time she was writing her classic, "Their Eyes Were Watching God." A bite from a rabid dog plays a major role in that novel's plot.
Savor and learn from this book. Yes, the authors sometimes digress from the topic (if defined narrowly), but those digressions are seldom without interest. "Rabid" is packed with historical and literary illustrations that make it a lively read and the scientific content is extremely valuable for contemporary readers as well.
5.0 out of 5 starsAbsolutely fascinating page-turner about a truly primeval disease
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 28, 2017
A perfect mix of history, science, theory and drama. This biography of rabies is one of the best books I've read in a while. It reads like a thriller yet is packed with facts. The segue into other zoonotic diseases is very topical. As someone who studied tropical medicine, I can vouch for the quality of the research that went into this. The historical integration with human folklore was completely unknown to me. I'm sure a non-medical person will find it as riveting as I did.
4.0 out of 5 starsEntertaining journalistic introduction to a fascinating subject
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 30, 2013
This is a very readable account of the history of rabies that covers an impressive range of geographical and chronological ground. The prose rolls along nicely and is frequently surprisingly entertaining. It is, in sum, a very good introduction to some of the major events in the history of rabies, which also draws attention to the unusual cultural footprint that this actually fairly rare disease has had.
In terms of audience... I have an academic interest in the history of rabies and was already familiar with many of the episodes covered. If you are expecting a 'cultural history' in the sense that modern academic historians use the phrase, then this is a bit superficial in its treatment. You might also find the writing too journalistic. But if you are looking for a good nonfic read, or a gateway to the much bigger subject of rabies in human culture, it's not bad.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 8, 2013
What does the book do well:
- Very well written, reads better than most (good) novels - It is a factual book and in combining easy reading with facts, the book delivers precisely what I look for - Very interesting analogies and curious background stories: it did make me laugh when reading the Ancient Greek cures for Hydrophobia ;O))
What I would like to see in the book:
- I would like to have seen a more expansive section on the modern therapies, Milwaukee Protocol and modified MP - I would have liked a more expansive section on case studies, say from India covering startegies and how they worked, every day exposure of people etc.
5.0 out of 5 starsRabies: A Cultural History of the World's Most...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 2, 2015
Amazing and informative book on disease that still today affects many parts of the world. The chapter 2 on rabies in the Medieval period was especially interesting as was in the chapter in book, that dealt with Pauster's courageous work with virus and his eventual success in finding a vaccine for it.