What is hydrophobia? How does it feel to the person suffering from it? What does the virus want? Find out on this episode. 

Welcome to Writing Rural with Alley, the fiction writer’s inspiration station for rural life and lifestyles, from historical to post-apocalyptic, helping you bring your rural stories to life! I’m Alley, and this is mini-episode #1 (or minisode #1, if you will) Rabies in People. Stick around to the end to find out all the ways things could possibly go wrong. Now, let’s get into this.

If you have been around long, you know that I did a whole episode on rabies in people. Somehow, in all that, I forgot a vital part! So I am here to fix my oops. Let’s cover what I missed: hydrophobia. Nope, it is not a fear of water! I was shocked to learn this. So what is it? 

Hydrophobia is defined as involuntary throat spasms that can be very painful, which happens every time the person tries to drink or even thinks about drinking and are caused by the rabies virus. This means hydrophobia is not a real phobia by definition. Phobias are fears, while hydrophobia is a physical, uncontrollable reaction to a specific stimuli. In this case water. 

This symptom of rabies does not present until late-stage rabies. By the time this symptom shows, the chances of survival are zero. In fact, there is only one person in all of history who lived after showing the signs and symptoms of the rabies virus. 

The reason, as I understand it, is because the virus is trying to get out in the saliva, or what is referred to as foaming at the mouth. If a person were to swallow their spit like they normally would the virus would not leave the body, so it adapted to cause this symptom of hydrophobia so that the only way to get rid of the saliva is out of the mouth. Personally, I find that creepy, because it sounds like the rabies virus has a mind of its own! 

People suffering from this do not fear water but the painful spasms that happen when they see, feel, taste, or hear water. Many times, they will refuse liquids altogether. We can only live without water for three days, and an ill person will likely have less time to live without water. Meaning a person will likely die within days of showing this symptom. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

Before we get to the best part, if you enjoy this podcast I hope you’ll take a minute to follow, rate, and review on your favorite podcasting platform. And if you are listening on YouTube, subscribe and hit that like button. Don’t forget to share with a friend. Now for everyone’s favorite part! 

Likely to go wrong: Your character shows signs of hydrophobia, but a loving family member tries to get them to drink anyway, knowing they need water to survive. This could cause the person suffering from rabies to lash out physically and attack the person. 

Possible to go wrong: Your character is suffering from hydrophobia, and they foam at the mouth. This makes it hard for the family caring for them to not come in contact with any bodily fluids, and they risk contracting rabies also. 

Possible to go wrong: Your character is suffering from hydrophobia but is desperately thirsty. They try to take a drink, but the throat spasms cause them to choke. This could be deadly. 

Thanks for listening! You can find the show notes and helpful links to learn more on my website, alleyhart.com. That’s A-L-L-E-Y-H-A-R-T.com. Subscribe or follow for more episodes. Connect by dropping me a comment on my YouTube videos. A new episode comes out every Monday. Until then, happy wordsmithing. 

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