Saturday, April 7, 2012

7 April 1900: Mad Dog on Lumpkin Street

On this day in 1900, news of a mad dog attack was published on the front page of the Athens Banner:

The earliest descriptions of rabies come from the 23rd century B.C.E., and the word itself comes from the Sanskrit word "rabhas," which means "to do violence." Though Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux developed the first human vaccine for rabies exposure in France in 1885, at the turn of the century in the United States, more than 100 people died annually after being exposed to the disease. 

In 1900, domestic animals did not receive much in the way of veterinary care, and even humans did not receive many vaccinations. Before 1960, 90% of rabies cases came from exposure from domestic animals, such as dogs; by 2010, only 8% of cases could be traced to domestic animals, while the other 92% were found in raccoons, coyotes, bats, skunks, and foxes. Where you live determines which animal is most likely to carry the disease in your environment: along the eastern seaboard, raccoons are the primary carriers, while in the midwest, the primary carriers are skunks.

In the incident described above, the child, William Whitehead, was likely rescued by Mary Jones, the 25-year-old laundress who lived at 740 Field Street, near the Earl Whitehead household at 720 Field Street. The "hand" who chased down and killed the rabid dog was likely Mary's husband, 30-year-old Sam Jones, who is listed on the 1900 U.S. Census as a day laborer. The two had been married for five years at the time, though do not seem to have wed in Clarke County.

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