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Mad Dogs and Meerkats

A History of Resurgent Rabies in Southern Africa

Karen Brown

Publication Year: 2011

In South Africa, rabies has been on the rise since the latter part of the twentieth century despite the availability of postexposure vaccines and regular inoculation campaigns for dogs. In Mad Dogs and Meerkats: A History of Resurgent Rabies in Southern Africa, Karen Brown links the increase of rabies to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Her study shows that the most afflicted regions of South Africa have seen a dangerous rise in feral dog populations as people lack the education, means, or will to care for their pets or take them to inoculation centers. Most victims are poor black children. Ineffective disease control, which in part depends on management policies in neighboring states and the diminished medical and veterinary infrastructures in Zimbabwe, has exacerbated the problem.

 This highly readable book is the first study of rabies in Africa, tracing its history in South Africa and neighboring states from 1800 to the present and showing how environmental and economic changes brought about by European colonialism and global trade have had long-term effects.

 Mad Dogs and Meerkats is recommended for public health policy makers and anyone interested in human-animal relations and how societies and governments have reacted to one of the world’s most feared diseases.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

Researching and writing this book on rabies during the last four years have proved to be interesting and exciting, and I am grateful for the help and support of the people who have enabled me to bring this project to fruition. The project has come a long way since I came across an article that inspired me to look at the history of rabies in South Africa. While working on another veterinary ...


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pp. xi


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pp. xiii-xiv

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Introduction: A Modern Plague: Rabies in South Africa, Past and Present

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pp. 1-19

Rabies is a terrible way to die. In February 1970, staff at the H. F. Verwoerd Hospital in Pretoria were alarmed and shocked by what for many was probably their first encounter with a rabies victim. The patient, a thirty-one-year-old farmer, known only by his surname, Duvenhage, had been referred to the hospital by a doctor from Warmbaths, located about one hundred miles north of the capital. On 20 February this doctor had visited ...

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Chapter 1: Travelers and Doctors: The Mystery of Rabies in Colonial South Africa

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pp. 20-37

The epigraphs —by John Barrow, private secretary to the first British governor of the Cape Colony, George Macartney, and by Stephen Kay, a British missionary in the eastern Cape—reflect the conflicting views about whether rabies existed in South Africa during the first part of the nineteenth century. Doctors, settlers, and travelers who visited the region commented either on the surprising absence of the disease or else its sporadic ...

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Chapter 2: Death in “Little Bess”: The Port Elizabeth Rabies Epidemic

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pp. 38-60

Ten years after the Cape’s chief veterinary surgeon, Duncan Hutcheon, recorded his concerns about the threat of rabies, the Colony’s bacteriologist, Alexander Edington, confirmed, following medical tests, that the disease had reached Port Elizabeth. On 22 April 1893 Edington received a telegram from the Port Elizabeth municipality informing him that “a peculiar disease ...

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Chapter 3: Crossing the Zambezi: The Southern Rhodesian Epidemic

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pp. 61-80


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Chapter 4: Beware of the Wild “Cats”: Indigenous Rabies in South Africa

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pp. 81-105

On 30 October 1928 Evert Burger and his friend, known only as Swanepoel, both age twelve, wended their way to school through Cyfergat Farm in the district of Wolmaransstad (Transvaal) and caught a yellow mongoose by the neck. Normally a healthy mongoose would not come near human beings, but an important symptom of the latter stages of rabies in meerkats ...

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Chapter 5: Rabid Dogs and Frenzied Jackals: The Return of Canine Rabies

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pp. 106-138

... In June 1950 came the confirmation that canine rabies had returned to South Africa for the first time in more than fifty years. The owner of the dog was a nurse from Messina (now Musina) who seemed well aware of the symptoms of rabies. Her dog had been bitten on the leg by another canid. As the disease progressed, the dog began to howl in a strange manner. It wandered long distances and fought with other animals. It also had ...

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Chapter 6: Terror Hits the Streets: The Urbanization of Rabies in KwaZulu-Natal

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pp. 139-164

In his interview for the Sunday Times of 14 September 1980, Dr. Derek Lawson, deputy superintendent of King Edward VIII Hospital in Durban, reminded his readers of the horrors of hydrophobia. At the time of writing, Lawson had been caring for five black children who had been brought to the hospital by their parents when they began to behave “abnormally.” They had not received any antirabic ...

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Chapter 7: The Virus Lives on: New Problems, Old Challenges for Rabies Control

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pp. 165-173

In April 1994 South Africa’s black majority took part in the country’s first democratic election. This election brought Nelson Mandela and the ANC party to power. Health issues have remained firmly on the political agenda in postapartheid South Africa, with rising cases of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and rabies. Since 1994 rabies has continued to claim the lives of South Africans every year, despite the availability of postexposure vaccines and ...


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pp. 175-215

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 217-230


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pp. 231-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780821443675
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821419533

Publication Year: 2011