by Elizabeth Trickey
Reading Time: 2 minutes 30 seconds.
A cure for rabies? Sadly, no, there is no cure for this terrible disease once symptoms appear.
Thankfully, rabies is not a big problem here in Ontario. In the last 100 years, only 7 people have died, the last being in 1967. In years when the number of rabid animals begins to increase, the MNR is wisely proactive, dropping vaccine bait in both urban and wooded areas. These bait packs are developed to be consumed by three species (fox, raccoon, and skunk) that are the most probable carriers of rabies. This has proven to be an effective way to keep our wildlife healthy. Actually, in North America, bats account for 70% of human deaths from rabies, but you can imagine the difficulty in trying to vaccinate these fellas! Worldwide, 99% of deaths from this disease are from dogs infecting humans.
The first documented case of death from rabies was over 4000 years ago. Since then, there has been much conjecture as how to treat someone. Oh, there have been many bizarre “remedies”. In the 1700s, a medical book recommended consuming a mixture of ground liverwort, pepper, and milk for four days, then to have a cold bath every second day for a month! OK, that can’t hurt, but we know that will do nothing to cure rabies.
If you think that was odd, how about this one from the ancient Romans – cut open the area of the bite, place raw veal on it, then eat lime and hog fat. As a delicious chaser to wash that down, drink boiled badger poo mixed with wine. Oh my, somehow a cold bath every second day sounds pretty good!
And the weirdness doesn’t end there. How about being held under water? Yup, all those who drowned did not die of rabies! Others were subjected to having their wounds burned by a hot poker, made to eat the brain of a rooster, or to chow down on the fur of the rabid critter. Fear of rabies was so frightening that people would subject themselves to anything!
By the 1800s, methods were becoming more sophisticated. Have you ever heard about “madstones”? Evidently these calcified hairballs, found inside the stomachs of grass eating mammals, had the magical ability to suck the madness out of the wound. For the astounding price of $2000 ($52,000 in today’s economy), you could own a madstone for yourself! Even Abraham Lincoln’s son had a madstone treatment for a suspected case of rabies. Another famous person, Edgar Allen Poe, is believed to have died from rabies. Nevermore was he to write his poetry….
Only a few decades later, in 1885, Louis Pasteur developed and administered the first vaccine for rabies. This disease became less scary knowing that there was an effective treatment.
Rabies is preventable, though the vaccine must be taken before the onset of symptoms. If you ever get bitten by a Rabies Vector Species (RVS) animal, wash the wound with soap, put on an antiseptic, then head to the hospital. Don’t wait for symptoms to develop. It will be too late by then. But, do you know what is even better advice? Give wildlife the space to live in their habitat. Let them find their own food that nature provides. Keep your distance when doing photography. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.