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Rabies is caused by a virus that belongs to the Rhabdoviridae family. The virus infects just mammals, and is usually spread from an infected animal to an uninfected animal or human when they are bitten. In the US, due to immunization against rabies for domestic animals, the virus is normally found just in wild animals.
The virus, on entering the body, makes it way to the nervous system after an incubation period. From here, the virus moves to the brain. It when the brain is affected by the virus that a human or an animal starts showing symptoms of the disease. From the brain, the virus then moves to the salivary glands of the animal. So, when the animal bites another animal or a human, they, in turn, get infected. As long as the salivary gland and the tissues are not dry, the virus will live in the animal.
When it comes to the rabies virus, it cannot live outside the body of the vector host. The moment the virus is put out of the salivary glands of the animal, the virus will die within seconds. However, in cases where the animal has succumbed to the rabies virus, the virus can continue to live in the animal for nearly 48 hours after death. That is why it is prudent not to touch dead animals that you find, and these include raccoons, groundhogs, opossums, bats and skunks.
Therefore, it can be said that the rabies virus cannot survive the body for more than a few seconds.
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