Werewolf Legends: True Story or Rabies?!

Werewolves are mythical creatures that first originated during the European middle ages. As the legend goes, a mad dog’s bite can turn normal people into raging beasts of the night, hunting for prey, leaving no one behind. What are the origins of this myth? Are there any scientific explanations? Let’s welcome the spookiest month of the year by finding out the truth today with MyFriend!

The Werewolf lore is about people who turn into powerful and wild wolves, typically during nights when there is a full moon. It’s been said that the person’s character and behavior change drastically, suddenly possessing heightened senses, and becoming vicious. They hunt for their prey or decaying corpses to feed on, before returning to their “normal” human state in the morning. 

Curiosity sparked from the extreme lore of transforming from a normal human to a wild werewolf, within one historian in particular! Once there were technological advancements in the medical field, and there were finally reliable sources of historical records, Eugen Weber revealed the truth! During the 19th century, villagers in France were afraid of “canine madness” – which is what they used to describe Rabies! 

Rabies happens when the body is infected with a deadly virus from being bitten or scratched by a rabid animal. The virus will travel to the central nervous system, and it has an incubation period of around 2-8 weeks. 

The initial symptoms are mild fever, sore throat, loss of appetite, fatigue, and itchiness around the infected area. Once the initial symptoms subside, neurological dysfunction will start to occur. This includes anxiety, confusion, agitation, light sensitivity, aggression, and hallucinations. 

Dogs are responsible for over 99% of cases of rabies infection in people. Despite this, rabies can be transmitted through other mammals too, such as cats, rats, and rabbits.

Currently, there are no effective treatments available for the disease, but it is preventable! Taking animals to get their rabies vaccination, and being careful with getting bitten is the best method to avoid contracting this virus. But if you’re already bitten, immediately contact your physician to receive further aid, and shots for rabies and tetanus. 

If you come across any animal that is exhibiting behaviors related to rabies, such as agitation, excitement, or chasing other animals and people, call the Local Health Service Center so they can take further action. Do not try to catch them yourselves. Check if they are showing the following behaviors

As referenced by the BBC Thai news agency and Thai Red Cross Society, there are two types of symptoms animals with rabies can exhibit.

  • Furious Rabies where animals are showing signs of hyperactivity, overly excited behavior, and chasing other people and animals. Dogs will typically show these signs for 2-3 days. Then followed by extreme fatigue, troubled walking, and ultimately death due to cardio-respiratory arrest.
  • Paralytic Rabies is much less dramatic and much more difficult to notice. Similar to other diseases, the symptoms are a hanging tongue, inability to close their mouth, and paralysis. Eventually, after paralysis, the symptoms will further develop into a coma, leading to their death. 

Although the modern-day explanation brings more sense to legends and folklore, the werewolf myth remains a classic in our hearts. Especially during full-moon lit nights, many of us can’t help but look up and wonder. Are the howling dogs talking to someone transforming into one of them?! 👀🐺

📸 Thanks to Josephine Amalie Paysen for the image!

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