July 21, 2012

"The first symptom is... this tingling sensation at the site of the wound."

"Like, you didn't have it before, all that time that rabies was crawling up to the brain. Usually the wound has even healed at this point. But once your brain is infected, you'll often start to feel something odd at the site: a tingling, an itch, a stabbing pain. It sounds almost supernatural, but apparently it's true."

Rabies. Much more at the link, including the origin of the phrase "the hair of the dog."
Pliny the Elder... suggested that you burn a hair from the dog that bit you and insert the ashes into the wound... But he also rattled off this mindblowing series of other possible remedies. A maggot from a dead dog's body, or a linen cloth soaked with menstrual blood of a female dog. Chicken excrement, "if it is of a red color." Ashes from the tail of a shrew-mouse!
Something strong is needed. What do we have around here that's strong? (Reminds me of the way some people today think about politics!)

Here's the book: "Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus." I just bought it myself.


ndspinelli said...

My brother-in-law got bit by a stray cat. He caught it and called animal control to quarantine it. They let it get away and he had to go through those awful treatments. He looked like shit during the process.

The rabid dog scene in To Kill a Mockingbird freaked me out as a kid. Almost as much as the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.

halfagrin said...

Where the hell do you get the menstrual blood of a female dog in a timely fashion? I mean in those days they couldn't start calling the neighbors.
Only a guy who has slaves would come up with that cure. He's not going to go limping around himself, knocking on doors, bleeding and repeating his explanation over and over again.
"Well...uh....sure Pliny, you can check I guess. She's in the back yard."
Chances are he'd be bitten some more before he was through.

Michael K said...

The fact that the rabies virus climbs the peripheral nerves to get to the brain, allows it to avoid the immune system but also allows the time for the treatment to be effective after the bite.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

In 1953, I was bit in the face by a dog that was unknown if it was rabid. To be on the safe side I was given the shots. In the abdomen!!. Very!!! painful. I don't remember it, but my parents told me that after the first few visits to the hospital they had to drag me screaming from under the bed. Literally tie me up in the car and take me to the hospital. Fortunately, I only had to go about2/3 through the series since the test on the dog came back negative.

For years, until I was 10 or 11, I would throw up if I saw some one approach me in a white lab coat and faint at the sight of needles.

Also fortunately, the polio vaccine was given to us in pink sugar cubes and little cups. They had to also restrain me for the small pox inoculation and when I was tested for TB (a family member died of the disease). Even today anything with needles still makes my heart race and break out in a cold sweat. My brain knows it isn't going to hurt, my heart says NO NO NO NO run away.

So. Tell me how much worse our medical system is now?

PatCA said...

It sounds like those ancient remedies were attempts at vaccination.

Physics Geek said...

They no longer give you shots in the abdomen (right into the solar plexus). A coworker got them in his arm a few years ago. Still unpleasant, but not enough to make you run screaming.

Sadly, by the time you exhibit symptoms, it's too late. One woman was put into a medically induced coma as a last ditch effort and it actually worked. Subsequent trials have been failures. So if you're bitten, be safe and go for the shots.

ndspinelli said...

DBQ, I'm wearing a white lab coat to your next costume party.

traditionalguy said...

Facinating. Another major carrier of rabies is bats. That is a big reason that bats are associated eith unstoppable evil.

The live virus vaccines and the opposition to them is interesting. Michell Bachman fell for that too.

A favorite book of mine is "A Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the conquest of Polio."

Salk was U of Michigan researcher who took his idea for a weakened live virus vaccine for polio to U of Pittsburg lab funded by a grant from the FDR created Polio research foundation.

Against intense opposition from all sides to using a weakened live virus he pushed on with the research, and persuaded the National Health Service to set up a trial for his vaccine on 250,000 volunteers. IT WORKED!

That was by far and away the greatest good news in my lifetime.

Until then 45,000 adults and children were being struck down every summer in the USA alone. Salk's success was also partially claimed by opponents using other methods that they developed later on.

But thank God, it was Salk who did it. (Don't tell C4.)

Ann Althouse said...

I had to get rabies shots once (after wrangling with a bat). It wasn't that bad.

Please don't propagate the fear of the shots. When people might need them, they need to go to the doctor and get help, not go into denial which might be fatal.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

DBQ, I'm wearing a white lab coat to your next costume party.

LOL.. I'm over that part now. I won't barf on you.

BUT....if you come at me with a hypodermic, I'm shooting you :-0

@ Tradguy

The polio epidemic/scare was really something. Parents were frightened. A summertime headache or neck ache was enough to send everyone into a panic. In elementary school when we live in Galvaston, one of my schoolmates died. It wasn't uncommon, for many years after, to see kids with leg braces etc. from the polio

Diseases that we just took for granted you were going to get as a child (mumps, measles, chickenpox) are almost unheard of now. And contrary to what some people think today, those diseases were actually quite serious for some children...had some very bad lasting side effects and were even lethal. Those who don't want to vaccinate or purposely expose their children to avoidable diseases are morons.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I had to get rabies shots once (after wrangling with a bat). It wasn't that bad.

Please don't propagate the fear of the shot

Your experience was now. I was talking about THEN (1953)when they were terrible.

Ann Althouse said...

"Your experience was now. I was talking about THEN (1953)when they were terrible."

I know you were clear about that, but you didn't say it's not like that anymore. People hear these old horror stories, and the other information isn't so memorable. I want to get the correct information out there.

EDH said...

Just to be on the safe side, I got the rabies shots after I was bitten by a rabbi eating a rib eye.

Class factotum said...

DBQ, I, too, had to go through the rabies series when I was five. (I was bit by a mouse that my mother had told me to stay away from.) After the first shot, my mom and the doctor who lived down the hall from us (who, 38 years later, after his wife and my dad had died, became my mother's gentleman caller) had to drag me out from under the bed and sit on my legs and arms to administer the shot.

Class factotum said...

People hear these old horror stories, and the other information isn't so memorable.

Is it possible to give a shot in the abdomen that's not horrible?

ken in sc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ken in sc said...

Old TV westerns showed people pouring gunpowder into the bite wound, and lighting it. I suppose it only works on TV.

Petunia said...

I got my rabies shots when I started vet school. Got boostered three years later when I got bitten by a bat. Got my titers done six years after THAT just for giggles. I had approximately 11.5 times the level of antibodies deemed to be protective.

Come on, bats. Bite me. I dare you.

Petunia said...

An elderly man died of rabies in a Madison hospital a few years ago. Never did figure out for sure where he got the rabies, but since his attic was full of bats...

I found a bat next to my toilet last year. Euthanized it and took it to the state lab. It was negative.

The lucky gal who survived rabies...her treatment's been tried on quite a few people since. No one else has survived.

My virology prof told me to assume that any bat acting oddly is rabid. That includes bats in the living area of your house (as opposed to, say, the attic no one goes in), since they don't normally want to be around people. The bat in my bathroom WAS acting oddly, but was not rabid. But better safe than sorry.

Also, if you DO get bitten, if you get to the doctor within 12-24 hours, you can get an immunoglobulin shot to boost your immune system, as well as the vaccine, just as an added protective measure.

eddie willers said...

It sounds like those ancient remedies were attempts at vaccination.

Keep in mind that during Pliny's time, the Romans had surgical instruments and performed brain surgery.

I sometimes think that if Rome hadn't fallen, we would have been celebrating the 500th year of man landing on the moon in 1992 instead of Columbus' journey.

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