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Rabies, one of humanity's most ancient and feared diseases, has spread rapidly among the canines of South Texas and in raccoons on the eastern seaboard. The United States, with the world's most complex rabies problems, has seemed helpless in the face of this dangerous outbreak, the worst in decades.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.In South Texas, normally timid coyotes have become fearless, challenging ranch dogs twice their size, attacking an infant on her porch swing, and menacing oil field workers. More ominously, they have infected hundreds of pet dogs, resulting in the exposure of some fifteen hundred people in South Texas to the dreaded disease. Three people, including a fourteen-year-old boy, have died, and the leading edge of the plague line is approaching San Antonio, one of the nation's ten largest cities.Despite the fact that European nations and Canada have nearly eliminated rabies among wild animals, the virus has been able to spread in the United States because the federal government is unique in its stance that rabies is a local health problem. Controversy over who will pay for a federally approved vaccine is ongoing, even as the virus crosses state and national lines.The struggle to develop an effective oral rabies vaccination program in the United States began three decades ago. Finley describes the professional feuds, often between scientists and public health officials, thathindered the efforts. 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.Finley's straightforward language, free
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