These Books Made Me

Bonus Episode: Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy talk Rabies

April 14, 2022 Prince George's County Memorial Library System Season 2
These Books Made Me
Bonus Episode: Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy talk Rabies
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Many of us vividly remembered Their Eyes Were Watching God as the book where a person gets rabies and is shot. Tea Cake's demise left us with so many questions so Hannah consulted experts Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy, the authors of Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus. They gave us such a fascinating interview that we couldn't bear to cut any of it to fit it into the main episode. We present the interview in its entirety here for your listening pleasure (or discomfort depending on how you feel about rabies). 

Speaker 1:

Hello, I'm Darlene. One of the editors for that , these books made me podcast for that their eyes were watching God episode. We were lucky enough to have two expert interviews. One of which you heard during last week's episode this week, we're releasing the second interview, where hand is joined by bill Wasik and Monica Murphy authors of the book rabbit , a cultural history of the world's most diabolical virus. Our experts give us further insight into rabies, the disease that tragically afflicts teacake and Herson's novel.

Speaker 2:

So thank you so much for being here today. Would you mind introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about yourself and your background and your book rabbit, a cultural history of the world's most diabolical virus?

Speaker 3:

Sure. Uh, my name is bill Wasik , um, and I'm an editor at the New York times magazine.

Speaker 4:

My name's Monica Murphy and I'm a veterinarian in New York city.

Speaker 3:

And , um, and yeah, and we're married and we live in Brooklyn, New York , uh , but we are originally from Gaithersburg, Maryland, so we're thrilled to be talking to a Maryland audience. Uh, and , uh, yeah, a number of years ago , uh, we got really interested in, which is a subject that Monica knows a bit about from her background in veterinary medicine and also in public health. Um, and so decided to write a book about the history of it , um, and not just the, the science of it, but about the way in which you can find references to rabies throughout the history of, of the world. Yeah. It's called rabid a cultural history of the world's most diabolical virus. Uh , and we are very happy to be here.

Speaker 2:

That's such a cool project , uh , to work on with both of your, you know , different backgrounds and perspectives, like sort of the veterinary medical background, and then the , um , the journalism writing background though . Like how I I'm reading it right now, full disclosure, my coworker Ella suggested it. Uh , she loved the book and so we were so glad you agreed to come on and talk with us. Um, I love how you kind of bake the scope so broad , like you really like start in like ancient Greece. So I think it's one of the places

Speaker 3:

For that. Even you see references to rabies going all the way back to the Sumerians and the Acadians, like the very first written language. Um , oh, wow. Yeah. And it was neat. I mean, I think one of the things that made it such a unique way to write about history is that there are these sorts of bread crumbs of references to RABs throughout his history , uh, enough to enough to kind of hit so many different places and times over many thousands of years, but not so many that you can't sort of reference most of them in, in a relatively short , uh, uh , book for a general audience. Um, and so it , it was a , it was a fun project, not just because there are references to rabies from so many different parts of history, but there aren't that many of them . Um , and so it didn't, it was possible to really summarize most of what was there , uh, before the 19th century, you obviously at the 19th century, there's an explosion of, of more, you know, medical understandings and attempts to combat, but in the earlier parts of the chronology, there's like a nice manageable amount of stuff to write about.

Speaker 2:

So it's, it's really been with us a long, long time in human history. It sounds like.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. And, and there's sign about , I mean, that they've done studies with looking at the pH genetic tree of the virus where they actually have a working theory about when it jumped to humans.

Speaker 4:

You remember when that

Speaker 3:

Was? Well, I can't remember, but it was , uh, it was many thousands of years ago, you know, it , it was, it supported the idea that these would've been, or could have been references to rabies in these, these very early tablets as we get into in the book. It's like, the language is very, very suggestive of it being rabies. But of course, like our understanding of these very, very ancient tongues, you know, is always very provisional . And so we can't say for sure, but theological record or however you call it, like does support the idea that there would've been rabies circulating in these very , in the culture , right . In dogs

Speaker 4:

Mm-hmm <affirmative> cause that's really where it gets in the way of people is when rabies is circulating in dogs . <affirmative> because dogs live so closely with us that really creates a , a , a heightened risk that, that humans are gonna be exposed to the virus.

Speaker 2:

Right. Cause it's , um, like you said, we're , we interact so closely with dogs and I mean, it , it is president wild populations too. I think like we don't get as close to those necessary really all the time .

Speaker 4:

Yeah. And I think that in north America right now, where it's been eliminated in dogs, when an animal comes out of the forest and attacks us in daylight, we know something's wrong there. And, and I think with only a little bit of a information about rabies, you , you still are likely to think to, to approach a doctor about whether you need some care in the aftermath of, of being bitten by a Fox or a raccoon or a Bobcat or a skunk. And when, when Rab is circulating in dogs, I mean, there , we mostly have wonderful interactions with dogs, but there are also some negative interactions with dogs and it's more of a puzzle. Was that dog defending her puppies or her house or her boob bowl or, or is her behavior deranged by rabies ? Should I invest a large part of my family's income in , in seeking care for that? Uh, when it might be nothing. I think those are trickier calculations even in , in today's era where, where there is treatment available for, for rabies. And that's, that's true around the world. Although in some places it's easier to get than other there's .

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And I know , um, I think you touched on your book and about how, like there's a perception that UMRA be's treatment will be more unpleasant than it is. So my dad had an encounter with a animal as a kid and , um, it was probably in the sixties and he had to have like the horrible, the , of like shots in your stomach, like , you know, week after week, which I think it's , it's no longer quite fed unpleasant to get treated, even though there might be financial barriers to it.

Speaker 4:

Right. It it's , uh , and that's been true for decades that, that it's, it's down to just a handful of injections over a couple weeks and it goes in your arm. So it's , uh , it's much less unpleasant than what we may have heard about on the schoolyard, even in the eighties, you know, even , even then it was, it was not sort of what the public perceived it to be.

Speaker 2:

So , uh , my next question is, I think you touched on it a little when you introduced yourself and talked about your book, but wanted to ask what made you decide to write a book about the cultural history of rabies ?

Speaker 3:

Well, you know, I , um, Mo having, having a veterinarian as a spouse and one who's interested in infectious diseases, Monica would often come and tell me interesting stories about, you know, a paper or she had seen about rabies in a veterinary journal or, or little factoids about sort of how crazy, you know, RABs behavior is inside the, the body. You know, it , it , it , it crawls up the nerve, she things , um, which is O only, I think, like one or two other viruses do. Um, and, and , um, so I thought, oh , I should go and maybe buy a , a history of , uh , rabies for Monica. And I was shocked to find that there weren't any that not just there weren't, you know, popular books, but there weren't really a single volume academic histories of rabies either. And so I got in my head that it would be fun for us to collaborate on one ,

Speaker 2:

There was notebook . So you, so you decided to write it <laugh>

Speaker 3:

Exactly.

Speaker 2:

I believe that in your, in your book, rap's a cultural history. You discussed the portrayal of RABs Inor Neil , Hurston's their eyes for watching God, which is the book that this episode of our podcast is focusing on. Could you tell us a little bit about your, about that part of the book and how you discussed it in your own? Is it an accurate portrayal of the effects of the RABs virus? Any thoughts about it?

Speaker 4:

Well, it it's quite devastating to read about teacakes illness and , and I think that the book draws upon the horror of, of rabies to, to really help you empathize, you know, with the loss that, that Janie suffers. But it, I think fear accurately draws from what was known about rabies at the time , uh , in , in terms of its mode of transmission, the treatment's available , um, your sort of options once you're already sick and the dangers , uh, to , to, to the people who take care of someone sick with rabies, which it , I , I think maybe that last part is, is where it, maybe isn't, isn't quite what we think right now.

Speaker 3:

You , you mean in terms of teacake actually biting per , which is something that was often part of the mythology of rabies , but isn't , isn't really real ,

Speaker 4:

It's a humans bite bite , their caretakers it's it's . So it's, it's very true that Re's attacks the sort of primitive part of the brain, the , the , uh, where, where a lot of really core emotions live in , in including rage and, and, and maybe jealousy. Uh , I don't think that's a , a far stretch of the imagination and the person suffering from RABs really might be furious with, with those around him or her. When, when humans feel fury and rage though, biting isn't sort of our natural , uh, way we act that, that emotion out the way it is for a dog. So mm-hmm , <affirmative> , although humans do have infectious saliva, when they're suffering from rabies , the , the biting isn't isn't, I don't think a , a , a real likely way that they're going to, to manifest their symptoms, unless they're very young child. I , I have read credible reports that very young children suffering from rabies have bitten their caretakers and, and transmitted rabies to them that way. Oh, wow.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. But , well , which makes sense, because I think the idea is that rabies will provoke a response that's like natural to the,

Speaker 4:

Yeah. I , I mean, I honestly think sort of reaching for the gun was maybe the, the more plausible way a human might act out, you know, the , the sort of mm-hmm <affirmative> stimulation of their Olympic system punching people in the face, I think is frequently reported a from rabies sufferers, because that's a very human way to act out rage. Mm-hmm <affirmative> . I , I do think that there was a lot, she got right about this, this scenario in , in which a , a couple , um, one member of a couple is, is afflicted this way. Um, and , and given what we know about Jamie and teacake , I, I, I found this to be plausible and touching sort of scene .

Speaker 3:

One thing that that's , uh , that she gets right, is that I do think is, is part of what makes rabies, such a sort of dramatic and, and tragic affliction is the, is the time that elapses, you know, the , the weeks that elapsed, but sometimes it's even longer that can ELAP between when you're bitten by an animal. And when the human being begins to show signs of the illness , which is just, is so, you know, if you don't have access to, to postexposure vaccination, as we do today, is, is part of what is made Rab so terrifying throughout the ages, you know, because you, you sort of don't know during this long waiting period, whether this fatal infection is going to manifest itself. And , and so that's something I think that, that she gets right in the book .

Speaker 4:

Yeah. I mean, it does seem that they, if they had known to be concerned about rabies and to talk to the doctor about it early, that they might have had access to post-exposure vaccination and, and the, the, I think what one thing that makes the scene really poignant is the idea that the doctor has sent for the serum that might arrive and save the day we know now. And I think, I think it's possible because of the way she wrote a it that she, that or Hurston knew, then that, that Tiki couldn't have been saved by that serum. Uh , Jamie thinks she, that maybe he will be, but by the time Re's symptoms are manifest, it, it's, it's a death sentence with, with the rarest exceptions mm-hmm <affirmative> , and there's , there's very rare exceptions not to get too far afield from what happens in the book. But those very rare exceptions , um, that we know about are , are mainly in the last couple of decades and in very intensive care settings with induced coma. And, and so really out outside the , the scope of this book, I, I kind of, from the way she wrote it, that Zena person , the author knew, and that the, and that the doctor character probably knew , um, that, that it was hopeless, but , um, was sort of just sort of throwing out the serum idea as a , a last ditch. You gotta do something kind of kind of therapy , uh , without any real optimism that it was gonna save the day. Cause in point of fact, it , it wouldn't, mm-hmm , <affirmative> one symptoms are manifest the vaccine, the am therapies, which, which can be so useful given after a bite, they don't, they don't help the patient. There's some evidence they hurt the patient.

Speaker 2:

You have to get it , treat it before it gets to the point where they're . Yeah .

Speaker 4:

So essentially the interval in which you can treat res is the interval between when the animal bites and when the Rebe virus makes its way up the peripheral nervous system into the brain.

Speaker 2:

Ah , so you have to interrupt that process ,

Speaker 4:

Actually, a temporal relationship between sort of, if you get bitten on your toe, you might have longer to get that vaccination. Then , then if you get bitten on your face.

Speaker 2:

Oh , oh , interesting. I , I didn't realize that it was as variable as that based on like where in your anatomy or

Speaker 4:

It actually falls crawls along the nerves and it doesn't have as far distance to travel. Obviously, if your bed on your cheekbone, like teacake right . Your bed on your big toe,

Speaker 2:

Truly, truly a terrifying virus. <laugh> did you learn anything surprising , uh , to you or, or new about rabies or the place that occupies in our culture , uh , while you were researching and writing this book, obviously you went in with some poor knowledge , uh , with your veterinary background. Well ,

Speaker 4:

I, I mean, sure. We learned , we learned ,

Speaker 3:

Yeah. <laugh> no , and it was , it was so fun. How mu how much we learned, you know, one of the most fun parts of researching the book. Uh , and I hope of reading the book is, is all of the , the cures throughout history, the sort of ways in which different cultures and different eras sort of believed it was possible to cure rabies or to sort of keep a , a dog bite , you know, from turning into a RABs infection. And, you know, a lot of it is, is, is, is sort of comical and, and a lot of it is sort of scary or, or, or, or sort of disturbing or disgusting. Um, we really love going to this Basilica in Belgium where the medieval dog bite sufferers would go to sort of take the, the , the holy cure against rabies , um, under the protection of St hug bear , you know, who was the patron Saint of the hunt and also of rabies sufferers. And, and was the , the person you would, the St you would to in , in hoping to survive or , or , or not get rabies in terms of the, the present day stuff. And I mean, I , I wonder if you might talk a little bit about what you saw in Bali, because I did think that a lot of, a lot of, sort of what it looked like to try to stop a rabies outbreak, which was something that Monica saw when she went to Bali in the middle of a rabies outbreak there, I thought was really interesting.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I it's because B's a small island and because it had been able to remain rigs free until relatively recently, the , uh , when they had a single dog introduction of rabies, it really just took off through, through their dog population and, and led to a , a bunch of, of terrible human deaths. It , because, because it's such a small place, it was really, we were really able to piece together , um, a , a plausible theory for exactly when it came in and, and who was affected first and sort of how it made its way from village to village across the island. And it was also a great laboratory for public health and Internationale organizations to get in there and try out ways to, to stop it. And, and it was wonderful to see sort of the power of, of vaccination. Um, mm-hmm , <affirmative> in , in shutting down an epidemic and, or epizootic is what we call a , an epidemic in , in animals. And of course it, it took real nerve and , and bravery for, for the people on the front lines to go around catching these semi feral , some dogs to administer vaccination. So it was, it was a real sort of adventure to, to see these teams in action. So I feel like <laugh> , maybe the takeaways that are relevant to sort of the current pandemic are, are notional. It it's, it is for me, it's a meaningful model of a new disease and , and a naive population. And, and the, the way public health can sort of operate at its best to , to help and the sort of resistance you get from people who don't want to, to change the way they've been doing things before the, the arrives and , and people who want to take sort of draconian measures, let's kill all the dogs on the island of B versus people who are nervous about subjecting their dogs to vaccines it , it's fascinating stuff. And, and it's, it's interesting just as it's inter to look at sort of the history of, of the smallpox vaccinations and stuff, too , to , uh, to apply that, to sort of the way human nature continues to interact with, with infection and, and vaccination and so forth. I , I think another place in our book where that's relevant is in the PA chapter about Louis asters development of the rabies vaccine, which was a truly tremendous, tremendous achievement. And it's the technology upon which like all our current vaccines sort of their starting point. And it's sort of amazing to, to find how even when it came out, it's only recognized by some people for the sort of modern miracle it is. And, and for others, it's very, very scary. So that certainly has, has a lot of relevance now.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Uh , really resonates , uh , feels extra topical. Um , I didn't know that , uh , uh , pastor was involved in the Re's vaccine. I think I associated him with different vaccines in my , that he was the small pox guy as well.

Speaker 4:

Jenn Jenn's a small pox guy guy, and he was , he was , you know, decades out in front of pester , but whereas gen Jenner kind of uses an existing animal virus to produce immunity to a human scourge. Pastor is the first scientist. And he does this first in animals and some diseases, and then moves to rabies who his, his techniques involve taking an organism into the laboratory and weakening it, and then letting it back out into the world to induce immunity so that you're protected from the natural infection. And that to me is the , is , is the great leap forward. Of course it , you know, not too good .

Speaker 3:

Well , you wish you , you wish you could discover for every scary virus you wish you could discover a related virus that would , that was not very deadly, but would give us immunity, but which is essentially what was able to do with smallpox . But of course, we don't have that for, for almost any of other other you, you know ,

Speaker 4:

Anyway, I , I just love as a subject and I just, I think it was very gutsy of him because to, to sort of make the conscious choice that he, he wants to sell the world on, on this idea that you can attenuate natural infections and make them protect you from mm-hmm <affirmative> from , from disease. And, and so he, he goes after these scariest infection out there in rabies, cuz he, he knows it'll just be a blockbuster mm-hmm <affirmative> if he can save those lives, it's a blockbuster because then as, as now, like rabies to just terrified people out of proportion to how much harm it did sort of in , on the community level and it affects children more than it affects adults. So it just tugs at your heart mm-hmm <affirmative> and he , he just went for it. And I just, I just, there's so much sort of natural drama there. I , I just, I just love his, sorry ,

Speaker 2:

I'm conflating my , uh , um, public health figures here, but uh , would definitely owe them huge, huge depth for doing that, that work. And I feel like you're in your , you just sort of touched on in part of the answer for the, maybe the next question that I'm posing, which is like, what is it, what do you think it is about rabies that makes it as horrifying in our cultural con and in reality as, as it is, cuz it truly is a terrifying bias . I don't think anybody would , uh , disagree with that.

Speaker 3:

I mean, one of the, the, the ways that we thought of about it and, and partly how we frame the book is that, you know, most of our infectious diseases come to us out of animal populations, certainly emerging infectious diseases are coming to us out of animal populations, just like the, the COVID 19 virus did from bats or, or pangolins or sort of whatever combination it was. But , um, but, but rabies is the one virus where throughout history, you sort of visibly see the animal infecting the human, which is of course just a really powerful like cross-cultural idea, right? I mean the , the notion that animals and human are , are , I mean, this is what this is what has made Charles Darwin a controversial figure to this day. Right? And, and, and, and so many religions have mythologies or cosmologies that, that involve, you know, animals having their place and humans having, having their place and the notion that an can bite a human and , and that, that over time then the human begins to show not exactly the same Synthes as the animal, but the sort of visible signs that the animal has infected the human. That's just a really like powerful. I mean, it , it creeps us out even to this day, right? To , to hear about viruses coming out of animals and, and it's visible with rabies

Speaker 4:

And to bring it back to Starnell Hurston when TCAs infected, she starts using language to describe him like him snarling and, and lifting his lip at , at Janie . And she describes him walking with this swinging loing gate, which I'm actually not sure if that's how people affected by, by rabies , uh , might walk. It is how dogs affected by rabies kind of walk. I , I felt like she was using language that sort of brought all that to mind and it , and it just sort of doubled down on the horror of it that he, he he's essentially being characterized as, as increasingly animal, like , uh , as, as the virus takes hold of him.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. And I think, I mean , uh , you know, <laugh> , we spent a while talking about sort of how medically accurate it would be, but of course this is a , a work of literature and, and it's worth sort of acknowledging that part of what I think makes it, you know, even if it's a kind of like Gothic plot twist, like part of what I think makes it powerful that it underscores the sort of like, almost like cosmically doomed aspect of their relationship, but it also underscores the sort of, cuz there's a there's if I recall correctly, there's a , there's a bit of a sort of violence to their relationship even before this incident. Isn't that right?

Speaker 2:

Yes. I, I think so. I'm, I'm doing my reread, but I, I do think there is some hint of conflict with their relationship. I remember, right .

Speaker 3:

Just the sense of, of it, it, it almost bringing out something that was like already there in, in his nature, you know, mm-hmm <affirmative> and um, and I think that's a way in which you see rabies deployed. I mean, I think a lot about old yellow , which is, you know, the sort of classic way that a lot of Americans have like a rabies story, like mm-hmm , <affirmative> brought into their lives and you know, the sense that, that something that , that , that the incident with the dog getting bit , and then the dog, you know, in , in the book version, I think the boy, you know, kills the dog before it, it demonstrates signs of rabies and in the movie, I think, you know, they wait until the dog is snarling or whatever, but, but it's, it's against this backdrop of a, kind of like hard Scrabble sort of pioneer like life where, where the forces of nature that kind of, that have to be mastered to sort of live in that environment are, are almost feel almost symbolized by the way, in which they , they visit themselves on the dog. You know, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it's almost like, you know, it's almost like the violence of nature itself is like bearing down on the, on the beloved dog, you know, in that moment. And I, I think that the horror type uses of rabies, a book like Cujo or other, you know, there are lots of, of horror movies or that have used rabies or some , something that feels a lot like rabies and it's in there. It almost takes on a sort of, it's like almost a supernatural version of, of rabies as kind of like power to transform animals into something more like monsters and to , or to sort of be the most animalistic versions of themselves. And, and so, I mean, coming around to your question of what makes Rab so, so horrible, I think that it, in the way that it's used kind of literally used or used in a sort of figurative way in so many narratives, I think it's because it's sort of symbolizes this like animalistic violence , um, and whether it's humans that are seized with it, or whether it's animals that are sort of seized with it, like, there's something about that basic story. That's just incredibly scary to us. And it's something that, that has its roots, like, you know, in , in a kind of pre pre-Civil, you know , world or like reality,

Speaker 2:

It's a, it's a virus, it's a primal curse. It's the wrath of nature. There's

Speaker 3:

Yeah ,

Speaker 2:

Exactly. Definitely had some weight to it. So my next question is, do you think that there's enough accurate information and public health messaging about rabies out there for the general public to have, you know, sufficient info to know the risks, know how to prevent, know how to treat?

Speaker 4:

Uh , well, the, I, I worked in a local health department for couple years and we were actively pushing out messages about, you know, avoiding wildlife and, and seeking treatment. If you have a dangerous contact with, with wildlife, that same office would be the one that would be on the front lines of, of fighting coronavirus these last two years. And, and I would imagine, although I'm , I'm not in that world now that that, that RABs work would maybe, you know, be sort of on the back burner right now, the, of course at the national level, we are lucky that there are people working at the CDC entirely on, on rabies and can continuing to try to get , uh , the word out about how, how dangerous it is to have contact in particular with bats. And we saw some, some , uh, press releases in just the last several weeks related to a , uh, series of rabies cases in the United States occurring related to back contact. I think that with such a sort of infrequent and idiosyncratic pattern of, of illness and death in the United States and, and, you know, it's only a , a handful a year. I , I can under understand why we don't hear more about it than we do, but of course we'd love for everybody to know that that if you have contact with wildlife and in particular, if you have any physical contact with bats, you need to, to sort of get in touch with, with healthcare or public health to , uh , assess the need for R's vaccine because RABs deaths are entirely preventable with, with vaccination.

Speaker 3:

I , I think that one, one thing that we find a lot of people are surprised to , to hear us say, when we talk about RABs risk is that bat bites can often be very subtle. So you might be bit by a bat , you that some people can be bit by bats while they're asleep and not necessarily

Speaker 4:

Mean . Well, I , I , I mean, and in particular, in areas that that have a fair amount of bat rabies, someone reporting a bat being in their room when they're asleep might be questioned about, you know, how deep a sleeper they are, that , um, to sort of screen them for the need for, for post-exposure vaccination. But, but certainly if I were to , uh , have, have a toddler sleeping in another room and open the door to find a bat in there, I'd probably want to seek post-exposure care for that, that young child who couldn't report mm-hmm <affirmative> exposure because we wouldn't necessarily find a wound. And, and yeah, it's, it's , uh, the , the , that back contact, of course, it sort of defies that , uh, that generalization I made earlier about if, if Aku comes outta the woods and bites your ankle , you kind of, kind of have a get need care. Um, but, but waking up in a room with a bat and a hangover, meaning you , you might have been really knocked out the night before. You might not know you need care. Um, so those , um, I do think that it would be great to, to get the word out more, that as much as we love bats and we need them ecologically, and they're a , a core species for , uh, our ecosystem to function properly and for, to help, you know, get rid of mosquitoes, which cause disease, for example, the , the, the net good they do in the world is, is weigh in their favor. But when humans come in contact with them, they're important questions to, to be asked about whether there's a need for post-exposure rape vaccination.

Speaker 2:

It seems like a , a really tricky balance to find , to not demonize bats and make people afraid and want them to be destroyed. Cause like you said, they're useful and they're, you know , good species to have around for so many reasons. But do you

Speaker 4:

Caution <laugh> when you edit this? I, I hope we figure that out. Cause it's, cause it's truly important that we have bads, you know , and we wouldn't want them away from homes even because of the sort of ecosystem services they provide. For instance, getting rid of mosquitos that might give you a west Nile, you know, and , and I , I think I don't have these numbers in my head, but I would expect that west Nile is still causing more fatalities. Every certainly mosquito born encephalopathies are causing more, more harm in the United States than rabies is a president . So the idea that you'd, you know, do anything to bats that might increase your exposure to bugs sort of seems I don't know . And the point just being that , that even though , uh , we do wanna get out public health messaging around being very careful when you've had close contact with a bat, it is definitely, this is not an anti bad message . We, we, we love our bats. We need our bats.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. Um , well we do a blog post for each episode. One of which is a deep dive and maybe we'll try to write a nuanced, like Roundup of like information on bats and rabies that tries to balance that delicate message. Maybe we'll ask you for some recommended sources or talking points just to, you know, make

Speaker 4:

Sure we're because to your question, like if , if we're talking about, you know, ways that we can improve messaging in the United States, like, that's, it that's the whole game because almost everybody in the United States who's died of rabies in the last couple of decades with just a couple of exceptions , um,

Speaker 3:

It's acquired in the United States. Well,

Speaker 4:

That's what I was gonna say. You either get rabies because you had bad exposure or because you had dog exposure outside the us in an area that's still got dog exposure. Like that makes up by far most of, of the rabies cases, which are rare in the United States. So the people seem to have the message about foxes and raccoons and skunks and, and other larger animals with respect to, to bite exposures. But they do, they do not yet , uh, appreciate the, the risk , um, from rabies and you, you read mass exposures where kids like bring a bad for show and tell that they found on the ground, you know, like, and resulting in large numbers of school children needing post-exposure to vaccination. Uh, I, I hope people are continuing to work on good nuanced messaging around this issue because we, we do need to, to be careful about bad exposure without being that negative fear .

Speaker 2:

Mm-hmm <affirmative> makes sense. So I thought I'd close it out with an open ended question. Um, is there anything I didn't ask about that you wanted to share or mention or talk about today?

Speaker 3:

Well, we didn't talk about horror, horror tropes. One of, one of the subject that a lot of people ask me about at least are the question of, you know, we have a chapter in the book where we sort of talk about the uncanny resemblance between a lot of our classic horror tropes by which, I mean specifically the zombie myth, the vampire myth and the whirl Wolf Smith that all have some degree or other of resonance with rabies. And what I found in my investigation of the history of those was that there , there was far from a clear cut case that rabies, you know, a hundred percent influenced any of them in part because those tropes had actually all evolved over the years in very interesting ways, in some ways becoming kind of more rabies like in their behavior over time. But nevertheless, I do think it's funny and interesting sort of back to this point about the animal affecting the human to think about how many of our horror tropes like share that basic resonance with rabies, that like you have these humanoid creatures that either, you know, they get bitten and then they suddenly want to bite somebody else and sort of pass on the infection. So to speak in the case of the, the vampire or, you know, the WOL where you're affected and then you suddenly want, you become, become literally animalistic, like in your physical form and, you know, the zombie movies, in some ways, you know, the most recent resonance of rabies with horror movies have really been in these zombie movie type things. You know, IAM legends has a very rabies like kind of story that threads through it. Um, and 28 days later, the Danny Boyle film, you know, literally was inspired by, by rabies and, and the idea of a rage virus that, you know, that affects human beings or so ons. So I think it's, I do think it's really interesting just the way that there's this kind of family tree of horrors in the human , uh , certainly in the Western or, or American or Anglo-American kind of world, and that like rabies kind of sits right there in the middle of them in this, in this fascinating way.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. That, I'm so glad you brought that up, cuz it really does touch on those horror T tropes and like, and when in zombie mu the idea of the bite that you have that you don't know if it's going to mm-hmm , <affirmative> turn you into something, not yourself or are you, are you hiding it from your companion? You're trying , I mean, all those other TRS that's right .

Speaker 3:

It's right . Are you , are you really still human? You know, or are you this other more or animal thing? I mean, that that's, that is the, so, so much of the drama and zombie stories derives from that question.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I think that's , uh , yeah, it's really interesting stuff. So there's , uh , something else wonder different guy . I think we'll end it the , and thank you so much for your time. Both of you, we really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us through this episode.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Thanks for having us on.

Speaker 1:

I learned so much from this discussion and I hope you did too. Thank you for listening and join us next week for a new episode.

Intro
Bill and Monica introduce themselves
First historical accounts of rabies
Rabies in dogs
Post-exposure rabies treatment
The origins of the book
Portrayal of Tea Cake's illness in Their Eyes Were Watching God