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Vol 5 No 3 (2018): Zoonosis: Prospects and challenges for medical anthropology

Pregnant with puppies: The fear of rabies in the slums of New Delhi, India

  • Deborah Nadal
March 15, 2016
June 25, 2018


In New Delhi, some migrants from central-eastern India espouse a belief in ‘puppy pregnancy’, or the notion that after being bitten by a dog its puppies are conceived within the abdomen and their growth leads to an awful death. This article suggests that this belief is related to the widespread fear of rabies. This lethal infectious disease causes one-half of deaths in India, leaving behind grief-stricken families and shocked communities. This rabies-related shock results not only from the disease per se but also from the long, painful, and disturbing post-bite vaccination prophylaxis, using a nervous tissue vaccine, in which bite victims receive fourteen distressing injections in the abdomen in the hope of saving them from death. I propose here that dread of this vaccination may have stimulated, within an already fertile cultural milieu, the belief in this unnatural, animal pregnancy.