how dangerous is it to handle a passive rabid animal?

(Note: I am most assuredly not ever, in my entire life, going to do this. I’m not nuts. But this guy did, and I’m curious regarding the degree to which he’s screwed.)

Assume that, for whatever reason, I chose to pick up a rabid raccoon. Or small dog, whatever. I carry it around for a few minutes, and it doesn’t bite me. How much danger of infection am I in:

1.) From a scratch?

2.) From touching an open wound?

3.) From touching racooon by-product? (Snot, poop, etc)

4.) From touching only intact racoon fur and skin?

Follow-up - how long would I (or the Raccoon Guy in the above link) have to seek treatment before being doomed to a remarkably horrible death?

From the CDC:

The most common mode of rabies virus transmission is through the bite and virus-containing saliva of an infected host. Though transmission has been rarely documented via other routes such as contamination of mucous membranes (i.e., eyes, nose, mouth), aerosol transmission, and corneal and organ transplantations.

Me now:

The virus doesn’t live very well outside of bodily fluids. Generally speaking, you need fluid-to-fluid contact.

As for how long, it depends. You have until the virus hits your brain - the higher up your body you’re bitten, the less time you have, since it travels through your nerve cells toward your brain.

Very low likelihood of acquiring rabies from such an incident, but such exposures are an indication for rabies postexposure prophylaxis.

Not in danger. Contact with blood is not an indication for PEP.

Contact with mucous or excreta is not an indication for PEP. Contact with saliva or neural tissue is an indication if you can’t rule out the presence of a skin break.

Not in danger. Contact with hide or fur is not an indication for PEP.

General advice is to seek PEP as soon as possible if an exposure to the virus has occured, but PEP can usually be delayed up to 10 days with no problem. The prevention window depends on the exposure site and the amount of virus introduced into the body.

In all likelihood the man in this story will be fine without PEP, unless he was bitten.

ywtf, dvm

My dog killed a possum and I was worried even though she had her rabies shot. The vet told me possums can’t get rabies so I felt much better. I guess they just have natural immunity to it.

They can get rabies, but there usually only one or two reported every year. All mammals are susceptible to rabies, but possums are less so than others.

Seconding ywtf.

I have heard of an instance where the incubation period in a human was up to one year (time between exposure and development of symptoms).

Factors influencing this include area of bite/exposure (the closer to the brain, the more rapidly serious symptoms will develop) and amount of inoculum. The famous case of the boy who was saved by Pasteur’s pioneering rabies vaccine in 1885 was noteworthy in part because the boy was bitten repeatedly, and had injuries to his face.

It’s a slow-moving virus, but you don’t want to dally around after being exposed to it.

If bitten and untreated, he is a dead man. And it is a nasty and protracted way of dying.

Weren’t there some cases of cavers catching rabies from bat guano (maybe from the guano dust in the air)?

Jackmanii, I was told of a documented case that was even longer than that. I take it with a pinch of salt, although it came from the group at work that does rabies research.

SoulFrost, that would be very unlikely, but if they are in a cave, they could have gotten exposed not by the guano, but by saliva, cuts, and blood around.

Cavers can get other stuff from guano (I’m thinking histoplasmosis) much more likely than rabies.

Think about it this way.

How many (few actually) people annually in the US get treated and/or actually get/die regarding rabies?

Take that very small number, then consider how many people have probably been attacked by / and or have handled questionable animals.

Of course you should NEVER handle any wild or questionable animal without good reason, but if you HAD to for some reason, I dont think its any reason to get totally freaked out.

I think the most dangerous possibility is that the animal would sneeze in your face! That would be quite a risk, indeed. (Assuming, from the OP, that it’s passive enough not to bite you.)

There was a case publicized over here of a local man who died of rabies. The only way he could think of that he possibly contracted it was a short time before when he was riding pilliar on a motorcycle, a dog came running out chasing the bike, and he kicked the dog with his flipflop-clad foot.

Make no mistake: Rabies is nothing to fool around with.

There has been one case reported with a 6 or 7 year incubation period. I think that is the longest that has been documented.

There was one case documented in the 50’s involving a caver who developed rabies after spending time in a cave with a high concentration of bats, which suggests the possibility of exposure through inhaled aerosols. However, there is reason to believe he may have been bitten and didn’t know it because one of his caving partners said there was blood on his face when he exited the cave. So how he acquired rabies isn’t clear cut.

Probably the same case they were alluding.

How could they be sure the person didn’t have some later contact with rabies after the first, known, contact but several months before showing symptoms? Or were there symptoms for the 6 or 7 years?

Years ago, while living in Waco, I found a very sick kitten on my doorstep. This was on a Friday evening, and the Humane Society was closed until Monday, so I took care of it over the weekend.

On Monday, when I took it to the shelter, it when into convulsions and died literally as I handed it to the worker there. :eek:

My wife, my 3-year-old son, our friend and I all had to get rabies shots. Granted, the odds of us contracting it were very low indeed… but the downside was just too huge to take the chance- once you start showing symptoms, it’s pretty much too late for you.

Hey, at least we made the news.

:frowning: Poor kitten. I’m amazed it even survived the initial exposure - it probably got into a fight with a rabid animal, right?

The way they explained it, the person didn’t have symptoms, and no known recent rabid exposure when he (it was a guy) got the disease and died. When they did an autopsy, got samples, and genotyped the rabies virus, it was a strain found in a completely different part of the world. The guy had moved from Southeast Asia to the States in those years, and the strain was from Southeast Asia and had never been found in the US.

They couldn’t test the kitten? Did it bite you or any of your family members?