The September 21, 1998-issued Neurology reveals the theory of a Spanish doctor that a European rabies epidemic in the eighteenth century gave rise to the legend of the vampire. Dr. Juan Gomez-Alonso, of the Xeral Hospital in Vigo, notes the following symptoms vampires have in common with many rabies sufferers: hypersexuality, aggressiveness, hypersensitivity to stimuli (including garlic), and "a tendency to bite others" and transmit the condition. Gomez-Alonso, who studied the history of vampirism and its sometime links to rabies outbreaks, states that a person was once not believed rabid if he or she could tolerate his or her own mirror image. Wolves and bats can also get rabies--hence perhaps their connections to the vampire legend.
Rachel Carthy posted a September 22 comment on a fortean internet listing--that hypersexuality and aggressiveness are aspects of "movie" vampires and their like, not folkloric ones. Nevertheless, much of Gomez-Alonso's thesis bears consideration.
Source: Reuters, 9/21/98; alt.misc.forteana list.