The claim: A video circulating online shows a man barking like a dog. According to the caption, the man was allegedly suffering from rabies.
- The rumor had already been debunked in 2017 by the Nanning police in southern China’s Guangxi province. The police sources said that the man in the video actually had a medical history of mental illness for three years, and his condition worsened due to not taking his medication for several days. Doctors examined him and ruled out the possibility of rabies.
- Rabies in people can be categorized into two forms: furious rabies and paralytic rabies. Furious rabies can lead to hyperactivity, excitable behavior, hallucinations, lack of coordination, hydrophobia, and aerophobia. It has a very high mortality rate. However, imitating a dog’s bark is not a common symptom of rabies in human beings.
Our verdict: The viral video shows a man in Guangxi suffering from mental illness, not rabies. Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
Recently, a viral video circulating online shows a man barking like a dog on the street. His behavior attracted a crowd of onlookers. A couple of police officers can be seen using ropes to restrain the man’s limbs to a roadside railing. The video’s subtitle, written in simplified Chinese, translates as, “It is my first time seeing someone suffering from rabies.” The caption claims that the man’s behavior, including imitation of a dog’s bark, was due to rabies.
As of the issuance of this report, the tweet had been shared 97 times, 7 times with quote, and it had received 320 likes.
Keyword searches found a debunking article published in 2017 by the official Weibo account of Guangxi Nanning public security bureau’s online police division. A comparison shows that a screenshot shared in the Nanning police’s article and a scene in the viral video are similar, with corresponding appearance, clothing and other details of the man. After a further comparison, it was found that the viral video had been horizontally flipped, as evidenced by the Chinese characters 公安 (public security) appearing in reverse. Based on the above comparison and the content in the debunking article, it can be concluded that the viral video and the Nanning police’s article were about the same incident.
The Nanning police have clarified in the article that the man didn’t suffer from rabies, but rather a psychiatric disorder. The incident took place Dec. 3, 2017, outside a coach station in Nanning. The man in the video, who was from a prefecture-level city in Guangxi, suddenly became agitated and restless with hyperactive behavior, and even imitated a dog barking. His behavior drew attention from people around him and ultimately led to the scene depicted in the video.
A further keyword search found an article published Dec. 4, 2017 by Nanning Evening News, a local media outlet. The article stated that the man in the video had been taken to the hospital, where he regained consciousness, became very calm, and behaved no differently from a normal person. In the hospital, the man cooperated with the doctors during the examination and questioning. The preliminary diagnosis ruled out the possibility of rabies. Upon further inquiry, it was revealed that the man had a medical history of mental illness for three years and had been taking psychiatric medication. However, he had not taken his medication for nearly ten days prior to the incident.
Hong Kong Center for Health Protection stated that the initial presentation of rabies may be non-specific and include flu-like symptoms such as malaise, fever or headache, which may last for days. There may be numbness and tingling sensation around the wound. After a few days, anxiety, confusion, spasm of swallowing muscles, paralysis, coma and death will occur. There are two forms of clinical manifestations in humans, namely furious rabies (dominated by hyperactivity) and paralytic rabies (dominated by paralysis).
According to the World Health Organization, furious rabies results in hyperactivity, excitable behavior, hallucinations, lack of coordination, hydrophobia (fear of water) and aerophobia (fear of drafts or of fresh air). Death occurs after a few days due to cardio-respiratory arrest. Paralytic rabies accounts for about 20% of the total number of human cases. This form of rabies runs a less dramatic and usually longer course than the furious form. Muscles gradually become paralyzed, starting from the wound site. A coma slowly develops, and eventually death occurs.
Therefore, imitating a dog barking is not a common symptom of rabies in human beings.
The viral video shows a man in Guangxi suffering from mental illness, not rabies. Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
- Twitter, tweet, May 9, 2023.
- Weibo, “What?! A suspected rabies patient at the Nanning Jiangnan Coach Station?” Dec. 4, 2017.
- Nanning Evening Post, “Man’s behavior of barking like a dog misinterpreted as rabies and causes public panic; Hospital rules out the possibility of rabies,” Dec. 4, 2017.
- Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection, Rabies.
- The World Health Organization, Rabies.