Medicine: For Man & Dog

Only 52 people, on an average, die in the U.S. each year from rabies, but almost everyone has a chilling fear of the disease, and with good reason: once it takes hold, it invariably ends in a horrible sequence of delirium, paralysis and death. The only way to save a patient bitten by a rabid animal is to give him a prompt injection of vaccine which kills the disease before it is fully developed.

But the treatment is chancy, too. About 100,000 people get the vaccine each year (as a precaution, in most cases). How many die from it—because of inflammation of...

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