Medical Specialty >> Infections

Doctors Lounge - Infections Answers

Back to Infections Answers List

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Doctors Lounge ( does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her physician. Please read our 'Terms and Conditions of Use' carefully before using this site.

Date of last update: 10/12/2017.

Forum Name: Viral Infections

Question: Is Rabies only transmissable during the symptomatic stage?

 ItsEssexRob - Fri Aug 13, 2010 6:12 am

Hi there, new here but really in need of some advice here.

My dad has just got back from a 4 week holiday in the guangzhou province of China. Whilst visiting a cemetry there he says he stroked a feral cat and it nipped him ( but he claims it didnt draw blood) it also nipped my 2 year old half sister. Because neither drew blood he was not worried at all. Also he claimed the cat 'looked fine' so was nothig to worry about.

I however am not so sure as if the virus is present in saliva surely it could pass to him if he then wiped his nose or touched his mouth with the cat saliva, same with the baby.

Knowing that I am a bit of a hypochondriac he dismisses my concerns, so I have now turned my attention to making sure I could not get it from him if he did incubate it.

My main question I would like to ask is.

Is Rabies only contagious when symptoms show in the individual or animal? Because I read that human to human transmission directly has never been recorded, surely there would have been some people who incubated it without knowing and shared cutlery and cups, or kissed their family, wouldnt they then transmit it if it were contagious before onset of symptoms?

Because of this I am attmepting to avoid contact with him for a while.

Personally I am annoyed at the niavety in touching a feral animal in a country where this diseases are prevelent, but its done now and my concern is what happens now.

Can a professional please tell me, if t is contagious before onset of symptoms and help me out here a bit please.

 Dr.M.jagesh kamath - Sat Aug 14, 2010 2:55 am

User avatar Hello,First and the most important is that your father must contact your heath providers,and you should see to that both receive post exposure prophylaxis ,if necessary, after discussion with the authorities medical and in municipal.Though non bite exposure rarely transmits the virus yet is no reason for taking it easy.Unprovoked bites are more dangerous than provoked ones.
The incubation period is 1 to 3 months but could be less.The virus multiplies early near the area of injury in the muscles.Once it reaches the peripheral nerves then it can not be contained.Injuries near the brain are more dangerous since the travel distance is less.After the CNS is involved only it reaches the salivary tissue.Post exposure Prophylaxis is effective so long as the virus has not entered the nerves.
If the animal is observed for 10days and found healthy PEP is not necessary .Like what you learned human transmission is most unlikely except in organ transplants.There are no instances of healthcare professionals acquiring rabies from infected patients.Being a fatal condition if diagnosed as rabies and there being safe prophylaxis available do promptly attend to this.
Thus it is of paramount importance not to waste any time.Do consult your physician as to whether they need PEP.Ok?

| Check a doctor's response to similar questions

Are you a Doctor, Pharmacist, PA or a Nurse?

Join the Doctors Lounge online medical community

  • Editorial activities: Publish, peer review, edit online articles.

  • Ask a Doctor Teams: Respond to patient questions and discuss challenging presentations with other members.

Doctors Lounge Membership Application

Tools & Services: Follow DoctorsLounge on Twitter Follow us on Twitter | RSS News | Newsletter | Contact us