This section is from the book "Smith's Family Physician", by William Henry Smith. See also: Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies that Medical Doctors Don't Know.
In the present state of our knowledge, the principal object in the treatment of this disease is to allay the patient's sufferings. This should be done by keeping the patient perfectly quiet and in the dark; and by the external and internal administration of opium in every form, combined with other sedatives. The strength should be kept up with whatever nutriment can be taken, and if the surgeon imagines that he can give any other remedy with a chance of benefit, and without adding to his patient's sufferings, let him do so. There remains, however, one grand experiment to be made; that is to say, the production of asphyxia by Woorali, and the gradual restoration of the patient to consciousness by means of artificial respiration. And there really seems to be some reason for hoping that, by thus suspending the functions of the nervous system, the effects of the poison may gradually cease before the strength is quite exhausted.
"Formerly it was the custom in decided cases of Hydrophobia to smother the patients between feather beds; the author knows that about twenty years ago, two respectable surgeons, one of whom is still living, purposely bled a woman to death in a village in Lincolnshire; and it appears from the Dublin Medical Press (26th January, 1841), that a hydrophobic patient in France was put out of his misery by poison, only three years ago. It is strange that these practices have not been noticed by the legislature."
The late Duke of Richmond died in Canada of Hydrophobia, communicated, it was thought, by a tame fox. Dr. Watson says, "A lady who had read this, was good enough, in 1862, to inform me, upon the authority of a friend of hers, who was living at Montreal at the time of the Duke's death, and acquainted with his family, that his disease was caused by the bite of a dog. And I have since been told by Mr. Lawrence Peel, the Duke's son-in-law, that it was uncertain whether the bite was made by a fox or by a dog; that the Duke was interfering in a fray between a tame fox and a pet dog, the fox retreating into his kennel. It is not accurately known which, or whether either of the animals had rabies."
The late Mr. Youatt, who had seen more of the disease probably both in man and in other animals, than any other person in the country, did not think that the saliva of a rabid animal could communicate the disorder through the unbroken cuticle; he believed that there must be some abrasion or breach of surface, He held however, that it might be communicated by mere contact with the mucous membranes.
Of its harmlessness on the sound skin, he offered this presumptive evidence, that his own hands had many times, with perfect impunity, been covered with the. saliva of the mad dog. He records some singular instances in which the disease was transmitted by contact of the saliva with the mucous membranes. "A man endeavoured to untie with his teeth a knot that had been firmly drawn in a cord. Eight weeks afterwards he expired, undeniably rabid. It was then recollected that with this cord a mad dog had been confined. A woman was attacked by a rabid dog, and escaped with, the laceration of her gown. In the act of mending it she thoughtlessly pressed down the seam with her teeth. She died.
"Mr. Gilman of Highgate, in a little pamphlet on Hydrophobia, quotes an instance from Dr. Percival, in which a mad dog licked the face of a sleeping man, near his mouth, and the man died of Hydrophobia, although the strictest search failed to discover the smallest scratch or abrasion of his skin."
As the records of cases of Hydrophobia show that usually the symptoms commence with a pain or uneasiness in the oicatrix of the wound caused by the animal, both Sir Thomas Watson and Mr. Mayo recommend that the cicatrix should be cut out, even if Hydrophobic symptoms have commenced.
In one instance, which was treated in Guy's Hospital, and the particulars of which were carefully investigated by Dr. Gull, the disorder broke out more than five years after the patient had been bitten by a pointer bitch just below his left knee. There a cicatrix was visible, and the Hydrophobic attack was preceded by pain in that spot.
"An important question is, is a man who has been bitten by a mad dog, and in whose case no precautions have been taken, a doomed man? Will he be sure to have the disease, ami to die of it? By no means. But few, upon the whole, of those who are bitten, become affected with Hydrophobia."
John Hunter states that he knew an instance in which, of twenty-one persons bitten, one alone fell a victim of Hydrophobia. Dr. Hamilton estimates the proportion to be one in twenty-five. Out of one hundred and fourteen persons bitten in France by rabid wolves, no less than sixty-seven of them became mad.
"It is this frequent immunity from the disease in persons who have been bitten, that has tended to confer reputation upon so many vaunted methods of prevention. Ignorant persons and knavish persons, have not failed to take advantage of this. They announce that they are in possession of some secret remedy which will prevent the poison from operating; they persuade the friends of those who die that the remedy was not rightly employed, or not resorted to sufficiently early; and they persuade those who escape that they escape by virtue of the preventive remedy. If the plunder they reap from the foolish and frightened were all, this would be of less consequence; but unfortunately, the hope of security without undergoing a painful operation leads many to neglect the only sure mode of obtaining safety.
It is a curious circumstance that madness occurs more frequently in dogs than in bitches. Professor Coleman, in his evidence taken before a committee of the House of Commons on this subject, states that when the disorder finds its way into a kennel of fox-hounds, the mad dogs bite the dogs, but spare the bitches. Among 392 collected instances, 356 dogs were bitten, and 36 bitches.
Rabies and Hydrophobia appear to be unknown in some countries, in the Isle of Cyprus for example, and in Egypt. Sir Henry Young, who was for seven years Governor in Tasmania, states that, as yet, there have been no mad dogs there; and Dr. Heine-ken states that curs of the most wretched description abound in the Island of Madeira; that they are afflicted with almost every disease, tormented by flies, and heat, and thirst, and famine, yet no rabid dog was ever seen there. On the other hand, 16(56 deaths from Hydrophobia, in the human subject, are stated to have occurred in Prussia, in ten years.