Rabies in popular culture

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Rabies has been the main plot device or a significant theme in many fictional works. Due to the long history of the virus as well as the neurotropic nature, rabies has been a potent symbol of madness, irrationalism, or an unstoppable plague.[1][2][3][4]


Novels and films[edit]

  • In 28 Days Later, a horror film set in post-apocalyptic Britain, an artificial virus called "Rage" causes humans to become frenzied and uncontrollably aggressive. The virus exhibits similar features to rabies, with discoloration of the eye, unpredictable behavior, the urge to bite, and the spread of the virus through saliva. While the behavior of the infected characters in the film was modeled after the effects of advanced rabies in humans[5] the comic book 28 Days Later: The Aftermath states that the virus is, in fact, a carrier of ebola mixed with a calming agent that went rogue.
  • Cujo, a Stephen King novel (1981) and film (1983) about a mother and son being terrorized by a rabid dog.
  • [●REC], an apartment building is quarantined after the breakout of an unknown virus (a strain of rabies).
  • Quarantine, an apartment building is quarantined after an outbreak of an unknown virus. One resident of the building, a veterinarian, suspects it is a case of rabies.
  • In The Journey, book 42 of the Animorphs children's book series, one of the main characters, Marco becomes infected with the rabies virus after being bitten by a rabid dog while attempting to retrieve a camera from an apartment. Marco begins to experience early symptoms of the virus, but when he morphs into a cockroach, the virus is destroyed.
  • In Trollhunter, a 2011 movie about college students following a government Troll hunter, the Trolls have been infected with rabies, causing them to behave erratically.
  • In The Barrens, Stephen Moyer's character Richard has been bitten by his rabid dog. Richard suffers from the final symptoms of rabies as he and his family are camping in the New Jersey Pine Barrens and being stalked by the legendary Jersey Devil. Richard's rabies question whether the Devil is real (Richard mainly sees the Devil) or if it is caused by Richard's hallucinations.

In literature[edit]

  • Q & A, a novel by Vikas Swarup, devotes one chapter to a rabies epidemic in Agra, during which the main character's new friend contracts rabies from a dog bite, and dies. The main character tries to save him, but is unable to obtain the money needed for a vaccine.
  • Rabies, a novel by Borislav Pekić about a genetically engineered rabies virus with a double protein envelope, thus becoming extremely easy to transmit (biting is not necessary any more), which spreads from one victim to another extremely fast. The virus gets turned loose at the London's Heathrow Airport.
  • Rant, a novel by Chuck Palahniuk in which the main character infects those around him with rabies.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird uses the imagery of a rabid dog to represent the prejudices of the town of Maycomb, Alabama.
  • The Totem (1979), a novel by David Morrell, centers on a northwestern town that is terrorized by humans and animals infected with a (fictitious) variant of the rabies virus, which doesn't kill the infected, but does affect their minds and physiology (leading characters in the book to speculate that victims of this virus were the origin of the werewolf myth).
  • In the novel When the Lion Feeds by Wilbur Smith, in which one of the main characters dies following a bite from a rabid jackal, the events are described in harrowing detail.

In music[edit]


  • In Seinfeld, Season 5, episode 3 "The Glasses" Elaine is bitten by a strange dog and has trouble communicating with the doctor about whether she should get a shot and later suspects she has rabies when she has difficulty swallowing.
  • In Blue Mountain State Season 1, linebacker Thad Castle admits to using rabies as a performance enhancer because it gives him the same competitive edge as steroids but is undetectable to the NCAA's tests. Runningback Craig Shilo later shoots up with Thad's rabies before a competition with a prospective freshman runningback.
  • In the movie The Crazies, a small town in Iowa is infected with a biochemically modified form of the Rhabdoviridae family released accidentally by the United States Army. However, in the movie, the RNA virus begins as a water-borne pathogen and mutates into an air-borne pathogen.
  • The Fantastic Mr. Fox, a movie based on Roald Dahl's famous book Fantastic Mr. Fox. Within the movie the issue of rabies is shown.
  • In a Season 1 episode of House M.D. titled "Histories", Dr. Gregory House works to diagnose a homeless woman's illness, and it turns out that the woman is infected with rabies, from an untreated bat bite.[6]
  • Home Movies in episode 4 of season 1 ("Brendon Gets Rabies") vacationing neighbors leave their cat to be watched while out of town. The cat eventually escapes and is later found in a rabid state. The cat then bites Brendon while he attempts to catch it, and both are rushed off to the veterinarian for intensive care.
  • Bonanza, in episode 25 of season 12, "A Time to Die", Ben's friend, April Christopher, gets bitten by a rabid wolf.
  • The Mad Death, a 1983 BBC TV series in which Britain is gripped by an outbreak of rabies after an afflicted pet cat is illegally smuggled into the country.
  • In Marmaduke, the character Chupadogra (Buster) (voiced by Sam Elliott) was believed to have Rabies and ate owner, however later in the film this turns out to be untrue.
  • The Office season 4, Michael Scott, after running Meredith Palmer over with his car, finds out she was infected with rabies. To detract from his own negligence, he subsequently organizes a "5k race for the cure" in her honor.
  • Quarantine, a Hollywood remake of Spanish horror movie, REC about a mutated variation of rabies.[8]
  • In the horror film Rabid (1977) starring Marilyn Chambers, a critically injured woman receives plastic surgery that treats some of her intact tissue is treated to become morphogenetically neutral, in hopes that tissue grafts to fire-damaged areas of her body will differentiate and replace the damaged skin and organs. Instead, the woman becomes a parasitic monster whose victims transform into rabid zombies whose bites spread the disease.
  • In the classic film Rage (1966) starring Glenn Ford and Stella Stevens, a doctor in rural Mexico is infected with rabies and desperately struggles to return to civilization and seek treatment. A major scene in the film shows a rabid man exhibiting symptoms being restrained by locals.
  • Scrubs season 5 deals with the death of three patients resulting from organ transplants from an infected patient.
  • In Season 13 of ER, a young boy contracts rabies.
  • The Beavis and Butt-Head episode "Rabies Scare" has Beavis get bitten by a rabid dog. He bites antacid tablets to simulate foaming at the mouth.
  • 1000 Ways to Die, a story about a taxidermist who contracts the disease from an infected squirrel.
  • In season four of ITV's Heartbeat an episode entitled Mid Day Sun a family smuggle their rabies infected dog into the UK and a garage worker dies, resulting in a search across the North Yorkshire Moors for the rabid animal and its eventual shooting.
  • In the season 27 episode of the BBC's Casualty titled If Not For You, a dog-bite patient is suspected to be suffering from rabies contracted through a corneal transplant performed in Algeria, causing a rare case where a human may have given a dog rabies.
  • In season one, episode six of ITV's The Grand John Bannerman and Clive Evans are bitten by a dog suspected of having rabies.
  • In the Criminal Minds season 9 episode Rabid, a sadistic kidnapper intentionally infects his victims with rabies and derives pleasure from videotaping their subsequent violent behavior.


  1. ^ Pemberton, Neil (2007). Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Rabies in Britain, 1830–2000. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-230-54240-9. 
  2. ^ Lee, Harper (1984). To Kill A Mockingbird (Barron's Book Notes). Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 0-8120-3446-5. 
  3. ^ Sontag, Susan (2001). Illness as Metaphor. Picador. pp. 127, 156. ISBN 0-312-42013-7. 
  4. ^ Glenn, Kay (2008). Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide. Chicago Review Press. pp. 52–53. ISBN 1-55652-770-5. 
  5. ^ "Film : 28 Days Later". Montreal Mirror. 2003-07-02. Retrieved 2011-09-08. 
  6. ^ "House – episode 10". Polite Dissent. Retrieved 2011-09-08. 
  7. ^ Tom Ivan (2009-09-17). "Left 4 Dead 2 Banned In Australia - Edge Magazine". Next-gen.biz. Retrieved 2011-09-08. 
  8. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1082868/synopsis