Rabies, literally meaning “furious” in Latin, is commonly known throughout the ages for its terrifying effects on both humans and animals alike. Because the disease is fatal, people throughout the world have put greatest effort to find ways of controlling and preventing the disease. Natural remedies and protection amulets were used until Pasteur’s discovery of the vaccine. Based on those findings, people have altered techniques to make the vaccine. However, recently, there have been two particular cases concerning rabies. One woman survived the disease by an induced coma without receiving the vaccine. Another case a common organ donor infected with rabies killed all the recipients. These medical mysterious surprised many scientist even today.
Long before humans established their existence on Earth, microorganisms have always existed. Such is the case for a specific virus named rabies. People in the past could easily identify the presence of this tiny killer. Extending way back to about 2300 BC, people in ancient Babylon have acknowledged the presence of this terrifying disease. Furthermore, they even set up written laws, requiring owners to quarantine their rabid animals or risk being fined a certain amount of money if the animals attacked anyone (West 12-13). In the fifth century BC, a few famous Greek and Roman writers, such as Democritus, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Plutarch, Xenophon, Epimarcus, and Virgil, also mentioned rabies in their writings. However, during times where culture played a bigger influence than science, people typically documented the disease in an ambiguous and vague fashion. In Greek mythology, the god Aristaeus cancelled out the effects, while the goddess Artemis spread the disease to humans and animals alike, cursing them to a state of madness (Baer 1). Only until the first century AD that a Roman celebrated physician called Aulus Cornelius Celsus accurately described the disease (Rabies.com). He also stated “saliva was ‘venomous’ and the means of transmitting the disease” (West 13). In American culture, this disease has also made its mark on humanity because of the way one dies but also the way the person’s death affects everyone around them. In the two famous novels Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Hurston and Old Yeller by Frederick Gipson, the great emotional pain deeply scars the heroes of the stories. In Gipson’s novel, Old Yeller, a young boy’s beloved dog, is injured while saving his human family. However, as soon as Old Yeller’s character dramatically changes for the worst, the boy has no choice but to kill his loving companion (Gipson). Hurston’s novel echoes the same sadness. While trying to save Janie in a storm, a rabid cattle bit Janie’s husband. Tragically, this heroine is forced to shoot her husband as soon as she realized her husband was no longer himself (Hurston).
Early in the time, when vaccines or cures for rabies had not been discovered, people relied on natural. For prevention, madstones (or moonstones) were carried as charms to ward off rabies. As George Baer had mentioned in the book The Natural History of Rabies, “The original amulets – apparently “hair balls” from the stomach of white deer (or their gallstones), gallstones of white cows, or any smooth white stones – were used by the American frontiersmen and early settlers” (11). People would occasionally dip stones into milk until the color became white. If bitten, the stones would then be placed on top of the wound for healing effects. Other means of curing a person included cauterization, meaning to use heat to destroy tissue exposed from the bite wound. Various herbs and natural resources were also recommended to purify the wound site, such as donkey’s milk, child’s urine, and ‘stones’ of a hedgehog (West 15). Additionally, doctors favored submerging their patients underwater, sometimes even almost drowning them. The reason for this treatment was because people infected with rabies