You may think of rabies as a mystical plague, bringing madness and despair to fictional characters. This is hardly surprising given that rabies has been portrayed in this way in films, TV shows and even songs for as long as many of us can remember.
Rabies representation in films has covered all bases, from horror movies like 'Rabid' and 'Quarantine' to family movies like 'Old Yeller' and even recent children's films like 'Over the Hedge'. In some cases, it is a brief mention, or even a pun, in others it is a terrifying plague destroying anyone it comes into contact with.
But none of these films really show the true horror of rabies.
That isn't to say its depiction in movies isn't at least partly accurate, many films capture the frightening way this disease can change a person or animal. Some even capture the futility of trying to stop the spread of the disease once someone is infected. But these are still films, fictional stories, and in many ways, they make rabies seem fictional too. A problem for Hollywood heroes and storywriters.
Often dogs with rabies are shown as vicious monsters, foaming at the mouth and waiting to attack. The reality is a frightened, confused animal that is just as much of a victim as any person. The foaming at the mouth is actually excess saliva, produced as its throat muscles are paralysed. Its urge to attack is caused as the disease takes control of its nervous system. Beneath that is a dog that doesn’t deserve to suffer.
The true impact of rabies is far worse than any film can portray. Rabies means families torn apart, dogs mistreated or inhumanely culled and pressure on communities that are already struggling.
Rabies means not knowing if the stray dog in your village could kill you or your children, or whether your own pet could sentence you to death. No film will ever capture the heart-wrenching pain of your child being infected with rabies and knowing you cannot afford the treatment to save them.
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