How Long Can the Rabies Virus Survive Outside of the Body?


The rabies virus is a member of the Rhabdoviridae family of viruses, of the genus Lyssavirus. It is a mammal-specific virus that is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. In the United States, it is most often found in wild animals. Rabies attacks the central nervous system and causes death in cases not immediately treated following exposure. The general rule is that death is imminent once symptoms begin to manifest.

Life and Transmission

The rabies virus resides in the saliva of its host as well as brain and central nervous tissue. Bites are the most common form of transmission. However, it is important to realize that the virus can continue to thrive as long as it remains in the saliva and tissue and is not dried out. Some cases have documented rabies inside an animal that had been dead for longer than 24 hours.

Lifespan Outside of the Body

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Temperature and conditions may play a small part in varying the time frame, but the rabies virus cannot survive outside of a host body. Typically speaking, the rabies virus will be rendered inactive once outside of the host body (and host body material such as saliva) for a matter of seconds. It is still best to exercise caution, even if the threat of rabies is not a high one.