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Terrible Virus, Fascinating History In 'Rabid'

Here's your vocabulary word for the week: zoonosis. It describes an infection that is transmitted between species. For example, the disease that the husband and wife team of Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy have written about in their new book, Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus.

Wasik is a journalist; his wife is a veterinarian, so the rabies virus seems like a natural topic for conversation. "Veterinarians spend a lot of time thinking about rabies, even though in this country, we hardly ever see it," Murphy tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "So I've been bringing home stories about rabies from my education and from my reading for a long long time."

Murphy's stories about rabies intrigued her husband. "I started to think about all the cultural resonances of that and even just of the word 'rabid,' " Wasik says. "So we realized that it would be fun for us to work on a book together about it."

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