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SCIENCE FILE | Science in Brief

Poe Died of Rabies, Not Alcoholism or Drug Abuse, Doctors Believe

September 12, 1996|From Times staff and wire reports

Physicians at the University of Maryland Medical Center believe that writer Edgar Allan Poe died of rabies, not complications of alcoholism or drug abuse as had previously been believed. Poe died at age 39 on Oct. 7, 1849. Dr. R. Michael Benitez reports in the September issue of the Maryland Medical Journal that Poe suffered classic symptoms of rabies: He first was delirious with tremors and hallucinations, then slipped into a coma. He emerged from the coma, was calm and lucid, but then lapsed again into delirium, becoming combative and requiring restraint. He died four days after admission to the hospital.

Those symptoms are not characteristic of alcoholism, Benitez said, and records show that Poe had abstained from drink for six months before his death. No one will ever be sure what killed him, Benitez concluded, but rabies looks like the best bet.

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