Was Miami’s “Zombie” Attack a Case of Rabies?Posted: May 30, 2012
You’ve probably heard by now about the case of the naked man “eating” the face of a victim on a busy Causeway in downtown Miami. If not, here (if you aren’t too squeamish) is the story.
Ronald Poppo, 65, is in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, just blocks from where he was attacked by 31-year-old Rudy Eugene in broad daylight Saturday on the Downtown off-ramp of Miami’s busy MacArthur Causeway.
Surveillance video shows the attack went on for around 18 minutes before help arrived.
“The guy was, like, tearing him to pieces with his mouth, so I told him, ‘Get off!’” said Larry Vega. “The guy just kept eating the other guy away, like, ripping his skin.”
But Vega said when the police officer yelled at Eugene to back away, the naked man merely raised his head “with pieces of flesh in his mouth,” growled, and began chewing again. The officer then shot Eugene once, and when Eugene continued to attack Poppo’s face, shot him multiple times until he was dead.
Investigators suspect that Eugene may have been suffering from a drug-induced psychosis, possibly prompted by an LSD-like new drug called “bath salts.”
Police and the media are always ready to blame drugs for any aberrant behavior, and sometimes, of course, they turn out to be right. But it seems that a lot of times “drugs” is officialdom’s “god of the gaps”: It’s another way of saying, this is bizarre behavior and we have no clue what caused it. On the chatboards, they have another theory: all the talk is about the coming “zombie apocalypse.”
As soon as I read these reports, I instantly thought “rabies.” I could be wrong, too, naturally, but my thought was inspired by a book I just read by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy, a husband and wife team (he’s a journalist, she’s a veterinarian) called Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus.
According to Wasik and Murphy, rabies and our deep-seated fear of it have been with humans since our garbage heaps first attracted dogs and wolves. It’s the perfect disease of nightmares. It changes the sociable and mild-mannered canine into a ferocious beast. Man’s best friend to our mortal enemy almost overnight. It does that to humans who are infected as well–to any mammal it invades in fact. And it performs its awful magic, not by infecting the bloodstream, but by working on the nerves. Once the virus is inside the body, it works its way very slowly, synapse by synapse, to the brain, where it quickly destroys all reason and reason-ability. That’s a by-product of its main objective, which is to take over the autonomic nervous system and make its host need to get it into another body, which is usually accomplished in the medium of saliva through biting that breaks the skin. (The mad animal’s foaming at the mouth is a byproduct of another of rabies’ worst symptoms, hydrophobia).
Wasik and Murphy also make a plausible case for rabies’ –or our fear of rabies’–authorship of many of human imaginations’ most frightening monsters, from the wolves of fairy tales to werewolves, vampires and (surprise, surpise!) zombies of today’s horror movies.
Out of curiosity, I Googled “rabies South Florida Dade County incidence 2012″ and I found this article:
HEALTHBy Alexia Campbell, Sun Sentinel, May 11, 2012Keep an eye out for angry raccoons, hostile dogs and dizzy bats. These are the culprits largely behind a multiplying number of suspected rabies exposures among people in Palm Beach County . The number of people vaccinated in the county for possible rabies so far this year has more than doubled from the same time a year ago, state records show. That’s 47 people in the first four months of 2012 compared to 19 during the same period last year. The number dwarfs those in neighboring counties, which report fewer than 10 so far. Broward County has two suspected cases so far. The 47 so far this year compares to 80 in Palm Beach County for all of 2011, according to the state Health Department.
Just something I think the Dade investigators should look into. If Eugene did in fact have rabies, Popper is clearly in danger of being infected as well.
The zombie apocalypse won’t come from space viruses. It will start with a racoon, bat or dog.