Vampires and Rabies
A good case has been made by some medical historians that vampires of legend were actually just people with rabies. Consider the natural course of someone infected with the rabies virus.
The virus travels from the site of the bite along the nervous system, up to the brain, especially the limbic system. Once there, it changes behavior. The victim becomes agitated, confused, and aggressive. He (men are infected over 5 times more often than women) develops a terrible fear of water, so much that the sight of it can put him into spasms. He can’t even swallow, so he drools, and “foams at the mouth.” This is such a key sign, that rabies was once called hydrophobia.
But his entire sensory system is highly reactive. Seeing his reflection in a mirror can put him into facial spasms; strong odors can make him violent.
And by the time he’s starting to become violent, the virus has traveled to his salivary glands, into his spit. So when he bites someone – as he is often compelled to do – he transmits the virus to his victim. But because the limbic system is involved, the rabid man can become hypersexualized, as well – and the rabies virus can also be transmitted through semen.
What a genius virus! It goes to the brain, where it compels the host to bite or have sex – and it multiplies in saliva and semen, so it can be immediately spread to others. Like who dreamed that up?
The neurological muscle spasms can lead to intermittent great strength, so it’s often difficult to fend off this crazed, foaming, delirious attacker intent on biting or fornicating.
Insomnia is another symptom – so the patient tends to wander all night, and sleep all day. This behavior is even more pronounced because photophobia is another common symptom – light is painful to their eyes. So during the daylight hours they’re likely to spend their waking time in cellars – or in rural areas, in caves.
And caves, of course, are where bats live – another common carrier of the disease.
This is all during the excitation phase of the disease. Ultimately it leads to paralysis, and coma. This sometimes proceeds to death. But sometimes there’s a post-coma secondary brief excitation phase – a period of extreme aggression – followed shortly thereafter by death.
And finally, since there’s an anti-coagulant aspect to the pathology, the blood of a rabies victim corpse can remain liquid – and seem to “bleed” if the cadaver were cut.
Vampires are aggressive, they like to bite, and the people they bite then become vampires.
Vampires tend to be sexualized creatures, often preying on young women.
Vampires hate the light, they come out only at night, to wander and prey, and during the day they live in dark caves – where bats live. It’s even thought they can become bats.
Vampires hate water – they can’t cross rivers, and the only way they can cross an ocean is in the hold of a ship, inside a coffin, where the sight or sound of water can’t reach them.
Vampires hate strong odors (like garlic) and mirrors.
Vampires may seem to be dead when discovered in their cave or coffin – but it’s really just a coma, from which they can rise and bite their next victim, who then becomes infected with the vampire curse.
Even after they seem to be dead, they bleed like the living.
And finally – historically – there was a major rabies epidemic across Eastern Europe in the 1720’s – which is roughly when the modern vampire legends of the West arose.
Why do I go into all this? Because one of the characters in Matamoros gets rabies.
But I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out who.