The Rabies Disease Information System

 HISTORY OF RABIES               

          Democritus, a Greek philosopher recorded a case of Canine Rabies in 500 BC. In the 4th and 5th century BC,  few famous Greek and Roman writers, such as Democritus, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Plutarch, Xenophon, Epimarcus, and Virgil, have also mentioned details pertaining to the transmission of Rabies and its symptoms in their writings. Celcus and his counterparts of the 1 BC have made extensive studies on Rabies, recognising it to be a dangerous disease to the human race. Rabies became widespread across the Roman Empire, Greece and Crete during 1-100 AD. Cardanus described saliva from a Rabid dog as a virus – the Latin word for poison. In 1001-1100 AD, the writings of an Arab physician, Avicenna, marked a step forward in the knowledge about the disease. His books were used in European medical schools for nearly 500 years. Madness in dogs is recorded in the laws of Howel the Good of Wales during 1026 AD.

             In 1271 AD, 30 Germans died after Rabid wolves invaded villages of Franconia. During the 15th century, Spain was devastated by Canine Rabies, and it spread through Flanders, (North Belgium) Austria, Turkey and Hungary in 1586. In 1604, Rabies was reported in Paris, and spread through Europe during the 18th century. The first case of Rabies was reported in Mexico in 1703 by a priest. During 1734-5, Canine Rabies made its appearance in England. In 1753, it was reported in the North American State of Virginia. During the years 1759-1762, outbreaks of Rabies in London led to confinement of all the dogs in the city for about a month. Street dogs in the city were killed for a reward of two shillings. Outbreaks were also reported in France, Italy and Spain. In 1763, in Madrid, 900 dogs were reported to having been killed in a single day.

            In the 18th century, certain countries including Germany, France and Spain passed a legislation to destroy stray dogs, in attempt to reduce the risk that a rabid dog may come into contact with people. With foxes and dogs spreading the disease to farm animals, during 1768-1771, Rabies presented itself in Boston and other North American towns. During 1776-1778, the French West Indies was invaded by rabies. Cattle and people were bitten by infected dogs.In 1789, a New Yorker died from hydrophobia after skinning an infected cow. During 1790-1821, it spread through wolves and foxes into central Europe, France, Poland and the Czech Republic. In 1797, Rabies showed up in Rhode Island. During the 19th century, Rabies became widespread in Northern, Western and Eastern Europe including Ukraine and moved up to Canada. In1803, hundreds of dead foxes were spotted at the foot of the Jura Alps, Eastern France and the disease emerged for the first time in Peru.

               In 1804, Zinke, a German scientist demonstrated that Rabies is transmitted through saliva.

               In 1806, dogs belonging to English officers introduced Rabies into Argentina.

               In 1825, the disease entered the Black Forest of Germany. Chile, as well, suffered the disease in the year 1835.

             In 1881, French chemist Louis Pasteur and his assistant, Physician-scientist Emile Roux, began to research on a cure for Rabies. Roux creates a Rabies vaccine from the spinal cord of an infected animal and tests it on dogs in1883.

              In 1885, Joseph Meister, who was mauled by a Rabid dog was vaccinated by Pasteur. The treatment succeeded, and Pasteur was hailed as a hero.

              The first US case of Rabies in a bat was reported by the CDC in 1953 and in 1959 Dr. Robert Kissling developed the Fluorescent Antibody Test for the disease. 
           In 1977, Rabid raccoons were first detected in West Virginia. It is believed that Rabies was present in raccoons captured in Florida, where raccoon Rabies was well established and imported into West Virginia by hunters. It spread at a rate of approximately 35 to 50 miles per year into Maryland, Washington D.C., Delaware, and Pennsylvania. This accounted for an average of about 280 animal cases annually. Raccoons were held responsible for 77% of the Rabid terrestrial animals diagnosed. The other contributers included skunks which accounted for 14%, cats, 4%, foxes 2%, and groundhogs 2%. Twelve other species of animals have also been diagnosed with Rabies, including deer, dogs, horses, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and ferrets.