Volume 1, Number 1 (2010)
The History of the Only Rabies Epidemic in Trinidad and Tobago (1923-1937)
This paper reviews historically the only rabies epidemic in Trinidad which occurred between 1923 and 1937, and the ensuing epidemiological investigation that led to new knowledge of the disease. It chronicles the events that led to crucial experiments, which provided evidence for the first time, that bats were capable of transmitting rabies. The epidemic began among cattle in 1923 and progressed without being recognised as rabies, with many alternative diagnoses offered. The epidemic mysteriously and suddenly jumps the species barrier to spread to humans, which accounted for 84 deaths between 1929 and 1937. The disease in cattle and man was not recognised as the same until 1931. Once it became clear that the disease was rabies and the bat the agent for transmitting the disease, public health measures were implemented to arrest the epidemic.