How do people get rabies?

Rabies virus infection most commonly occurs when a rabid animal bites an individual. Rabies can also occur when infected saliva from a rabid animal contaminates an open wound (one which was bleeding within the past 24 hours), a scratch or skin abrasion, or a mucous membrane.

In addition to saliva and the salivary glands, tissues and fluid of the central nervous system (i.e., brain and spinal cord) contain high amounts of the virus. Virus is rarely found in other body organs and fluids.

People cannot get rabies by just petting an animal or even by getting saliva contaminated with rabies virus onto their intact skin. In order for them to get rabies, the virus must come in contact with a recent wound or break in the skin or the virus must get onto their mucous membranes (such as into the eye or mouth). However, any physical contact with a bat is considered a possible exposure to the rabies virus and should be carefully evaluated for post-exposure rabies treatment. Bats have such tiny teeth that a bite may go undetected.

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1. What is the history of rabies in New Jersey?
2. How did the outbreak of rabies in raccoons get started in this part of the country?
3. What areas of New Jersey are affected the most?
4. How can I protect myself from being exposed to rabies?
5. How do I "animal-proof" my house and yard?
6. Do I still need to vaccinate my cats and dogs against rabies?
7. Why recommend that domestic animals get vaccinated if raccoons are the animals spreading rabies?
8. Can raccoons be vaccinated against rabies?
9. What should I do if I'm bitten or attacked by an animal?
10. Why does my dog or cat need to be observed if it bites someone?
11. If my ferret bites someone can my ferret be observed for 10 days?
12. Can I get rabies from a squirrel or a mouse?
13. Why do animals need to be killed in order to be tested for rabies?
14. How do people get rabies?
15. What are the symptoms of rabies in humans?
16. Is there a treatment for rabies?
17. What is the protocol for rabies post-exposure treatment?
18. What are the chances that I will get rabies if I am exposed to a rabid animal and don't get the rabies treatment?
19. How can rabies be prevented?