The symptoms of the advanced form of the disease, in which the virus attacks the brain, include an aversion to bright light, water and mirrors, an apparent liking for blood and sex, and biting.
Juan Gomez-Alonso of the Xeral Hospital in Vigo, Spain, says these symptoms match the folklore of rapacious, sexually predatory vampires being unable to go out in the day, having no reflection, and burning if they touch water.
Muscle spasms in the neck can make victims look dog-like, and cause them to vomit blood, while some suffer violent impulses that make them try to bite people, and others get erections that last for days, Dr Gomez- Alonso writes in the journal Neurology. "I was shocked by the similarities between vampirism and rabies," he says.
Dr Gomez-Alonso has also found evidence of a major rabies outbreak in Hungary between 1721 and 1728 - the time when the legend of Dracula first gained currency.
"The similarities are too close to be coincidental," Dr Gomez-Alonso writes.
In which case, it could be that what the Count needed was not a stake through the heart, but a needle in the arm - before he fell ill - for once the symptoms begin to show, the disease is invariably fatal.Reuse content