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Rabies (cont.)

What Is the Cause of Rabies?

  • For a human to get rabies, two things must happen.
    • First, you must have contact with a rabid animal.
    • Second, the contact must allow for the transmission of infected material, which will involve exposure to the saliva of the infected animal usually through a bite or scratch.
  • Contaminated tissue in the rabid animal includes saliva. Other potentially infectious tissue is in the brain or nerve tissue. The virus is transmitted only when the virus gets into bite wounds, open cuts in your skin, or onto mucous membranes (for example, into your eyes, nose, or your mouth). The virus then spreads from the site of the exposure to your brain and eventually spreads throughout your body's major organs.
  • Ways the virus is transmitted
    • Bites from infected animals are the most common source of transmission.
    • Scratches by infected animals are far less likely to cause infection but are still considered a potential source of rabies transmission.
    • Therefore, treatment might be necessary after a close encounter with a bat.
    • In the large majority of cases of human rabies associated with a bat, a definite history of a bat bite or scratch cannot be confirmed. It is unclear how the virus was transmitted in the other cases -- perhaps by an undetectable bite.
    • Rabies has rarely been transmitted by other means. Examples include organ transplantation, inhaling a large amount of bat secretions in the air of a cave, and inhaling the concentrated virus by laboratory workers studying rabies.

What Are Rabies Risk Factors?

Risk factors for rabies include participating in any outdoor activities or travel to areas that may involve contact with rabid animals. Lab workers who study the virus have an increased risk of accidental infection as do people that explore caves and those individuals that collect bat guano for fertilizer.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017

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