Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 December 2009
Rabies virus belongs to the family Rhabdoviridae.
Route of spread
Rabies is a zoonotic disease that is transmitted from animals (particularly dogs, foxes, wolves, jackals, monkeys and bats) to man. Infection can be transmitted from a bite or scratch via a puncture wound through the skin, or through a lick on an open wound or sore.
Rabies occurs in every region of the world, but there are some countries, such as the UK, Hawaii, Panama and Australia, that have eradicated the infection. Rabies is common in India, Russia, Africa, the Phillipines, Central Europe, China and Japan. Rabies can be reintroduced into countries that have eradicated it, so it is always wise to check if it is present in countries you are visiting (so you can be aware of the risk and the need for prophylactic rabies vaccine).
The incubation period in man is usually 1–3 months, but it can be as short as 10 days and as long as 2 years, following exposure. The incubation period in the dog is usually from 14 to 60 days, but it may be much longer.