I was just reading the Wikipedia page on rabies, and the following claim is made:

Although it is theoretically possible for rabies-infected humans to transmit it to others by biting or otherwise, no such cases have ever been documented, because infected humans are usually hospitalized and necessary precautions taken.

According to the CDC, the only documented cases of human-to-human transmission are from rabid organ and tissue donors who were not suspected of being infected. Further, according to the Cleveland Clinic, about 2/3 of rabies patients have "furious rabies", meaning they experience symptoms like aggression, seizures and delirium.

So, this made me wonder, are there any recorded cases of a rabid human attacking other people? I understand this scenario is highly unlikely in modern times, given that rabies patients are given palliative care, which means they're heavily sedated. That being said, given the rural lifestyle of most ancient humans, and lack of modern medicine, I would think rabid human-on-human violence would have been documented at one point or another. After all, rabies has been around at least 4,300 years

My thinking is, that when the prodromal phase begins, the infected would take to bed. However, when the acute neurologic phase begins, approximately 2/3 of those people experience aggression. In addition, I am sure these people will be looked after by family. Ultimately, I would think this would lead to patient-on-caretaker attacks.

My Google searches return nothing. I try searching "rabies patient"/"rabid human" "attacks/assaults/fights/bites/" and a lot of other combos, but nothing comes up. It just repeats the basic information I have found here. To be clear, I am not asking if there is a recorded human-to-human transmission, as that question has already been answered. I am wanting to know if there is record of a rabid human attack. Specifically, I hope to find out what form the violence took; i.e. did the rabid patient throw punches, claw, bite., etc.?

If there is no record of such attacks, I would imagine the reason is that the course the rabies virus takes in humans leads to them being incapacitated before the aggression begins, and/or the aggression that does manifest is entirely ineffective (like a schizophrenic fighting phantom combatants).

1 Answer 1


Using the historic term for rabies, hydrophobia, and searching 19th century documents, records of infected patients biting caregivers can be found quite readily. The 1879 edition of The Dublin Journal of Medical Science has an article, the Report on Hydrophobia, which mentions several occasions, none of which resulted in infection of those bitten.

Among other cases to which he alludes is that of M. Caillard resident physician of the Hôtel Dieu, who was bitten, in 1814 by a hydrophobic man whom he, unaided, courageously succeeded in securing after all the attendants had fled. In 1831 he was a second bitten, while taking a piece of cloth from the back of the pharynx a child labouring under hydrophobia.

A woman, aged seventeen, who ultimately died of the disease, bit a surgeon who brought her out of the street whither she had fled, yet no bad consequences resulted.

The propensity to bite on the part of hydrophobics some times exposes their attendants to certain risks, and tends materially to unnerve them. Dr Copland speaks of the case of a boy, aged twelve, who while sitting on his mother's knee, suddenly forward at Dr C. with an involuntary impulse which required his mother's strength to restrain, although he had expressed great attachment to Dr C and a desire of seeing him frequently. As soon as the paroxysm had subsided, he excused himself, and that his conduct arose from a violent impulse and a feeling as if could tear in pieces whatever came in his way. He died six hours afterwards.

The conclusion listed is similar to what is mentioned in the above-cited wiki article:

Bollinger considers that it is doubtful whether any reliable cases are known in which human beings suffering from hydrophobia have communicated the disease by their bite although in view of the successful attempts at retro inoculation from men to animals the possibility of that mode of infection cannot be denied. Dr Shinkwin comes to the conclusion that all the cases on record go to prove that hydrophobia is not communicable from man to man.

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    HYDROPHOBIA!!! Of course. Thank you so much. That is especially fascinating about the boy. He was with it enough to know that his aggression was wrong, but still uncontrollable. Man, rabies is a wild disease. Commented May 4, 2023 at 21:03
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    @JimmyG. Its literally eating your brain, so yeah, it's pretty nuts.
    – Nelson
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 1:52
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    That's the way I would take it, yes.
    – justCal
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 2:39
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    Unlike what zombie movies show us, it's very difficult for a delirious human to actually succeed in biting another human
    – vsz
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 8:03
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    @candied_orange Yep, hydrophobia is a symptom, but in the past it was also a name for the illness in itself. In particular here in Italy the adjective "idrofobo" (hydrophobic) was still used when I was a child to denote rabid dogs: quel cane è idrofobo (that dog is hydrophobic). It was also used as an hyperbolic adjective for enraged humans to stress that a person is so angry that their mouth is (metaphorically) foaming. IDK if this usage was common in other parts of Europe, though. Commented May 5, 2023 at 22:46

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