I’ve had a operation on questions about survival that rabies virus exterior the body. The topic come up periodically v respect to emotional roadkill or vet clinic personnel working with pets that have actually been struck by an unknown animal. The situation of three world who emerged rabies after ~ taking treatment of a lamb that had actually been assaulted by a rabid animal, more than likely through contact with saliva native the rabid animal on the sheep’s coat comes into call with broken skin on your hands, shows the potential risk. An essential part the assessing the risk is understanding how long the virus lives outside the body.

You are watching: How long can rabies live outside the body

Some viruses are an extremely hardy and also can live because that weeks or also years exterior the body. Parvovirus and norovirus are classic examples the this type. Some viruses, choose HIV, die really quickly in the environment. Component of this relates to even if it is they room "enveloped" or "non-enveloped" viruses. Covering viruses have a coating that is susceptible to damages from eco-friendly effects, disinfectants and other challenges. Damaging this coating kills the virus. Non-enveloped viruses don’t have actually that susceptible coating and also that is in component why they room so lot hardier.

Fortunately, rabies is an covering virus, and it doesn’t prefer being external of a mammal’s body. Data ~ above rabies virus survival room pretty limited, because it’s not straightforward thing come assess. To look at rabies virus survival, you have to thrive the virus, disclose it to different environmental conditions, then watch if it’s tho able to epidemic a mammal or a organization culture. We deserve to do this easily with bacteria, but growing viruses is an ext work, specifically a attention virus such as rabies virus.

I can only find one research that has actually looked in ~ rabies virus survive (and Ican only read the abstract since the remainder of the document is in Czech). The examine (Matouch et al, Vet Med (Praha) 1987) associated testing of rabies virus native the salient gland the a normally infected fox. Lock exposed the virus to various conditions and used two techniques to look at the infectivity the the virus.

When the virus was spread out in a slim layer onto surfaces prefer glass, steel or leaves, the longest survive was 144 hours at 5 degrees C (that’s ~ 41F).At 20C(68F), the virus was infective because that 24h ~ above glass and leaves and 48h top top metal.At 30C (86F), the virus didn’t critical long, gift inactivated within 1.5h v exposure come sunlight and also 20h there is no sunlight.

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So, rabies virus deserve to survive because that a while outside the body. Temperature, humidity, sunlight exposure and also surface kind all most likely play necessary roles, yet in any certain situation you can never do a really accurate forecast of the virus’s survival beyond "it will endure for a while, however not very long."

From a valuable standpoint, it simply reinforces some usual themes:

People have to avoid call with dead or hurt animals.Veterinary personnel or pet owners taking care of a pet that has been assaulted by another pet should undertake gloves, to wash their hands and also take specific care if they have actually damaged skin.People who are at greater than normal threat of being exposed to potentially rabies-contaminated surfaces have to be vaccinated against rabies.

Image: Schematic diagram of a rabies virus reflecting the outer viral envelope (source: CDC Public wellness Image Library)

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