Through the ages, rabies has exemplified the danger of diseases that transfer from wild animals to humans and their domestic stock. In South Africa, rabies has been on the rise since the latter part of the twentieth century despite the availability of postexposure vaccines and regular inoculation campaigns for dogs.
In Mad Dogs and Meerkats: A History of Resurgent Rabies in Southern Africa, Karen Brown links the increase of rabies to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Her study shows that the most afflicted regions of South Africa have seen a dangerous rise in feral dog populations as people lack the education, means, or will to care for their pets or take them to inoculation centers. Most victims are poor black children. Ineffective disease control, which in part depends on management policies in neighboring states and the diminished medical and veterinary infrastructures in Zimbabwe, has exacerbated the problem.
This highly readable book is the first study of rabies in Africa, tracing its history in South Africa and neighboring states from 1800 to the present and showing how environmental and economic changes brought about by European colonialism and global trade have had long-term effects.
Mad Dogs and Meerkats is recommended for public health policy makers and anyone interested in human-animal relations and how societies and governments have reacted to one of the world's most feared diseases.
Karen Brown is currently an ESRC Research Fellow at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Oxford. She has published a number of papers that deal with environmental and veterinary history in South Africa.