Mad Dogs
The New Rabies Plague
Natural History - Veterinary Medicine
6 x 9, 232 pp.
10 b&w photos., Map.
Pub Date: 01/01/1998
Louise Lindsey Merrick Natural Environment Series
  paper
Price:        $14.95

978-0-89096-822-2
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Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Mad Dogs

The New Rabies Plague

By Donald Finley

Rabies, one of humanity's most ancient and feared diseases, has swept through Texas in one of the most dangerous outbreaks in decades. Normally timid coyotes have become fearless, challenging ranch dogs twice their size, attacking an infant on her porch swing, menacing oil field workers. More ominously, they have infected hundreds of pet dogs, resulting in some fifteen hundred people in South Texas exposed to the dreaded disease.

While South Texas copes with the effects of this outbreak, another has infected raccoons from Florida to New York, turning those toylike and benign creatures vicious.

The United States, with the world's most complex rabies problems, seems helpless to resolve them—despite the fact Europe and Canada have mounted successful and ongoing oral rabies vaccination programs. Controversy remains over who will pay for a federally approved vaccine, since the United States considers rabies a local health problem, though the virus knows no state lines or international boundaries.

In 1995, the USDA granted permission to drop an experimental, genetically engineered vaccine over nearly fifteen thousand square miles of South Texas brushlands in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.

In Mad Dogs: The New Rabies Plague, Don Finley chronicles the epidemic, the politics of response to it, and the most ambitious American attempt yet to erect a barrier against the disease—in Texas. He tells the stories of those who have been plagued by rabies, and those who have accepted the charge to end the plague.

Finley's straightforward language, free of either jargon or hysteria, is a welcome approach in describing the disease's destructive effects. His rare inside look into the politics and the science of disease control within public bureaucracies will engross those interested in science and public health issues, pet owners and wildlife enthusiasts, and those fascinated by infectious disease threats.

Don Finley, medical reporter for the San Antonio Express-News, has covered the rabies outbreak in South Texas from the time it was first recognized. A graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio, he has received numerous awards for medical and science journalism.

What Readers Are Saying:

“ . . . reads like a fast-paced thriller. . . . The protagonists in this real-life drama—scientists and public health officials who are often at odds with each other—emerge as strong characters. A gripping and informative book.” --Library Journal

“...unfolds almost like the plot of a ripping good mystery, Finley traces the crisis and shows just how quickly a deadly disease can spread.” --Abilene Reporter-News

“The book is an absorbing reading in the world of medical detectives.” --The Paris News

“...an informative and gripping book by Don Finley . . . Mad Dogs is a top-notch book.” --San Antonio Express-News

“ . . . an engrossing, detailed account of the epizootic.” --Natural History

“This book provides a fascinating, detailed, balanced history of rabies in wild animals in the United States and the use of oral rabies vaccination programs. . . . Among the many recently published stories about emerging infectious diseases and their control, this is on e of the better and one in which veterinarians should be proud to have played such a key role.” --Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA)

“. . .the difficulties of epidemiological studies in wild populations are laid bare, and the tension between scientific research and public health measures are likewise illuminated.” --Choice

“Probably one of the greatest contributions the book makes is affording the reader an insight into the workings of the democratic process and public policy, where everyone has a say and somehow all voices must be heard in the struggle to balance efforts for the good of society against possible negative effects of those efforts...” --Science Books & Films

“ . . . This well informed account of recent outbreaks in the United States, by a medical journalist who has done an impressive amount of homework, is of interest to both sides of the Atlantic. . . . a sobering and well told tale . . .” --Medical History

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