Rabies risks and causes


Rabies is caused by a virus class known as the lyssavirus, of which there are 14 animal-specific strains. The virus itself can be found in high concentrations in saliva and the nerve cells of an infected animal or human. Animal bites are the predominant mode of transmission,3 although the infection can also be passed by handling dead animals. Transmission between humans is extremely rare.

Once a person is bitten, scratched, or exposed to infected body fluids (either through the eyes, nose, mouth, or broken skin), the virus will travel through the nerves of the peripheral central system to the spinal cord and brain.

In the United States, bat bites are by far the most common route of animal-to-human transmission,

 followed by bites from rabid dogs. Other North American animals commonly infected include raccoons, skunks, foxes, cattle, coyotes, and domestic cats. 

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