I’ve had a run on questions about survival the rabies virus external the body. The topic comes up periodically through respect to touching roadkill or vet clinic personnel functioning with pets that have actually been attacked by an unknown animal. The case of three world who occurred rabies after taking care of a lamb that had actually been struck by a rabid animal, more than likely through contact with saliva from the rabid pet on the sheep’s coat comes into contact with damaged skin on your hands, reflects the potential risk. Crucial part that assessing the threat is understanding just how long the virus lives external the body.

You are watching: How long does the rabies virus live outside the body

Some viruses are very hardy and can live for weeks or even years outside the body. Parvovirus and norovirus are classic examples of this type. Some viruses, favor HIV, die very quickly in the environment. Part of this relates to even if it is they room "enveloped" or "non-enveloped" viruses. Sheathe viruses have actually a coating the is vulnerable to damage from ecological effects, disinfectants and also other challenges. Damaging this coating kills the virus. Non-enveloped viruses don’t have that at risk coating and also that is in component why they are so much hardier.

Fortunately, rabies is an sheathe virus, and it doesn’t choose being external of a mammal’s body. Data ~ above rabies virus survival are pretty limited, due to the fact that it’s not basic thing come assess. To look in ~ rabies virus survival, you have actually to prosper the virus, disclose it to different environmental conditions, then watch if it’s still able to infect a mammal or a organization culture. We deserve to do this quickly with bacteria, however growing viruses is more work, specifically a attention virus such as rabies virus.

I deserve to only uncover one examine that has looked in ~ rabies virus survival (and Ican just read the abstract since the rest of the record is in Czech). The examine (Matouch et al, Vet Med (Praha) 1987) associated testing of rabies virus native the salivary gland the a naturally infected fox. Castle exposed the virus to various conditions and also used two methods to look at the infectivity that the virus.

When the virus was spread out in a slim layer ~ above surfaces like glass, steel or leaves, the longest survive was 144 hours at 5 levels C (that’s ~ 41F).At 20C(68F), the virus was infective because that 24h ~ above glass and also leaves and 48h ~ above metal.At 30C (86F), the virus didn’t last long, being inactivated in ~ 1.5h with exposure come sunlight and also 20h without sunlight.

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So, rabies virus can survive because that a while outside the body. Temperature, humidity, sunshine exposure and also surface form all probably play necessary roles, but in any certain situation you deserve to never do a an extremely accurate prediction of the virus’s survival past "it will make it through for a while, however not an extremely long."

From a useful standpoint, it simply reinforces some common themes:

People have to avoid call with dead or injured animals.Veterinary personnel or pets owners handling a pet that has actually been assaulted by another animal should stay gloves, wash their hands and also take details care if they have damaged skin.People who room at greater than normal risk of being exposed to potentially rabies-contaminated surfaces have to be vaccinated against rabies.

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

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